Gulf Coast Claims Facility Fund Distribution
Oil spill funds flow past tainted shores
Unstained counties reap millions from Gulf Coast Claims Facility
by Louis Cooper • firstname.lastname@example.org
More than half of the compensation the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has awarded in Florida for damages caused by last spring’s BP oil spill has gone to areas outside of the five counties that reported oil on their beaches.
The facility has awarded a combined $1.23 billion to people who either reside in Florida or whose damage occurred in Florida, according to information released by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility on Nov. 15.
Of that, just $596.6 million went to people who either reside in or sustained damage in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Bay counties.
State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on the Economy, said he generally is unhappy with the way the facility has handled claims, and particularly for Northwest Florida residents. Still, he said he can see the need for compensation outside of the Panhandle.
“We were feeling severe economic consequences from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill a month before the first tar ball was within sight of the first Florida beach,” he pointed out.
Florida’s interconnected economy is the justification for spreading the compensation around, Gaetz said.
“There are communities and there are businesses which may not be washed by salt water which are affected by the economic consequences of the oil spill,” Gaetz said. “All of Florida got a bad rap because of the way the national media handled the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.”
Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino said he is “extremely disappointed, to put it mildly,” at the distribution of compensation funds. His district includes Perdido Key, where the first oil came ashore in Florida.
“It would seem suspicious, at the very least, that any community in Central and South Florida would be indemnified at the expense of Escambia County. The allocation of the reimbursement isn’t fair and equitable.”