After extensive pressure from Florida officials, Kenneth Feinberg, the man in charge of the $20 BP fund to compensate those deleteriously affected by the BP Gulf oil spill, relented today and said he will no longer use distance as a measure to determine if a business or individual should be compensated for economic losses.
Criticism by some of he state's top lawmakers, such as Charlie Crist, Bill McCollum and Alex Sink that Feinberg needed to compensate more Florida businesses apparently got through to the special master, as Feinberg acknowledged today.
After listening to these concerns, I have concluded that a geographic test to determine eligibility regarding economic harm due to the oil spill is unwarranted."
The deadline for immediate and emergency claims ends on November 23. Feinberg has not said what will be the criteria for long-term claims.
Approximately 32,000 individuals and 18,000 businesses have received emergency payments, with the largest number of claims coming from Florida and Louisiana.
But over 25,000 claims haven't been paid out yet, with approximately 2,000 in Florida. Feinberg has previously said that those were tough decisions to make because of the fact that - as of now at least - BP's leaked oil never made it to most places in Florida outside the Panhandle.
Tampa area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor hailed Feinberg's about face, saying,
This is great news for our hardworking small-business owners and tourism leaders on Floridas Gulf Coast. Although the Tampa Bay area has had no oil on its beaches, our hotels, restaurants and fishermen have been affected nonetheless. They have suffered economically, and many have legitimate claims. I am glad we have been able to overcome this hurdle, and it is appropriate their claims will be considered. Mr. Feinberg clearly heard from us about just how important it is for these claims to have a fair review.
Feinberg has said that dealing with fraudulent claims has slowed down his work. He said last week that the fund he administers has received 5,000 claims with no documentation, and 25,000 claims that says were "deficient."