Alaska Cost-of-Living Allowance (COLA)
The Alaska Cost-of-Living Allowance (COLA) was established in 1966 to assist retirees who elect to remain in state to defray the higher cost of living in Alaska. If you are eligible, you may receive the COLA in addition to your monthly benefit. The amount of COLA a PERS member receives is 10% of their base retirement benefit (or a minimum of $50 per month, whichever is larger).
Who is Eligible to Receive COLA?
If you reside in Alaska after you retire, you may receive COLA in addition to your regular monthly benefit. PERS Tier I retirees and their survivors are eligible upon retirement, regardless of age. All other PERS retirees and their survivors are eligible at age 65. All members receiving disability benefits are eligible, regardless of age or date of hire.
"Residing in Alaska" means domiciled and physically present in Alaska. A domicile is that place where you have your true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment and to which, whenever you are absent, you intend to return. An absence, which exceeds 90 days, constitutes a break in residency for COLA purposes.
If you become a resident out of state and later return to Alaska and become a resident again, you are eligible to receive COLA if you complete and submit the necessary forms. You will not lose COLA permanently; you can stop and start it.
If I leave Alaska on a trip, will I be entitled to COLA while I am away?
Yes, you are entitled to COLA during the time you are gone if you return to Alaska in less than 91 days. Please note that a period of 90 consecutive days does not start over with a new calendar year. You may be asked to provide copies of your travel documentation, which shows your departure and return dates.
You are NOT eligible for COLA and you are required to notify the Division in writing (use form 02-824a or your own written notice) if:
- You intend to be gone from Alaska continuously for more than 90 days;
- Your current absence exceeds 90 consecutive days (COLA entitlement ends retroactively to the end of the month of your departure from Alaska); or
- Your principal domicile is no longer in Alaska.
Am I entitled to COLA if I am gone from Alaska for more than 90 days due to illness?
You may continue to receive COLA for up to 6 months if:
- You are out of Alaska because of illness, and
- Your physician certifies your absence is necessary on a form (gen023) provided by the Division.
If your absence exceeds six months, COLA will stop on the first day of the seventh month following the date you left. If your illness began before leaving Alaska, you must make every effort to notify the Division before departing Alaska. Eligibility for COLA under this provision is a one-time exception to the requirements.
When does COLA stop and start?
COLA will stop on the first of the month following your departure from Alaska. If you receive COLA to which you are not entitled, you are required to repay it to the PERS. The Division will notify you of your options for repaying an overpayment. COLA will start again on the first of the month AFTER:
- You return to Alaska; and
- Your notification (form 02-1896a) is received by the Division.
If your notification is received or postmarked after the first of the month, COLA will not start again until the following month, regardless of your return date to Alaska. To avoid missing out on COLA benefits, you should submit your notification as soon as you return to Alaska.You may hand-deliver or mail your notification form to the Division. Mailed notifications must be postmarked in Alaska. Private meter postmarks will not be accepted. If a postmark date is illegible, your notification is presumed to have been mailed five working days before the date the notification is received.
PERS Alaska Statute 39.35.670—A person who knowingly makes a false statement, or falsifies or permits to be falsified a record of this system, in an attempt to defraud the system, is guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor and upon conviction is punishable by a fine of not more than $500 or by imprisonment for not more than 12 months, or by both.
Still have questions?
Please contact the Division to speak with a representative. You can find more COLA information and all of the associated forms on our website: Alaska.gov/forms/cola-forms.html.