Florida Keys Bank $64 M Claims
Florida Keys BP payouts reach $64 million
By KEVIN WADLOW email@example.com
Florida Keys residents and businesses have banked more than $64.3 million from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil-spill threat — more than any county outside the Florida Panhandle.
But with nearly half of the local claims denied or still pending as of Dec. 14, that’s not enough, said former Monroe County Commissioner Mario Di Gennaro.
“I’m very frustrated,” said Di Gennaro, a governor-appointed member of the Florida Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force. “I’m getting a lot of complaints.” “These people who have been rejected can’t find out why, and I can’t get any answers, either,” Di Gennaro said Friday. “This has got to stop.”
Barbara Maddox, co-owner of Capt. Pip’s Marina and Hideaway in Marathon, said she submitted more than 300 pages of documentation on her Marathon business’ loss, only to be abruptly turned down with no explanation.
“Nobody could tell me anything,” Maddox said. “As bad as I thought BP was at administering claims, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility is worse. It has been a very humiliating, frustrating and time-consuming process,” Maddox said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we have legitimate, documented claim for loss of business.”
According to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility report of Dec. 14, Monroe County residents and businesses have been paid $64,364,800 to cover 3,704 claims submitted for the first phase of the process.
Another 3,070 local claims — 45 percent of the 6,774 submtted from the Keys — have been either rejected or remain in limbo.
Monroe County has received more in claims payments than any Florida county south of the Panhandle, the area closest to the April oil spill. Five Panhandle counties — Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Bay — have received more. Escambia County, bordering Alabama, includes Pensacola. Businesses there have received $133.22 million for 10,638 paid claims.
Okaloosa County, including Destin and Fort Walton Beach, has received more than any Florida county, $237.49 million for 16,926 paid claims. West Coast counties Pinellas (St. Petersburg) and Collier (Naples) have received $33.7 million and $32.8 million, respectively.
More sparsely populated counties along the coast in the Big Bend areas lacking major tourism economies have received much less, despite their geographic proximity to the spill.
Monroe County petitioned for spill-relief funding after widespread reports that the spilled seemed almost certain to reach the Keys. Resorts, dive operators and charter fishermen saw some cancellations and a huge decline in bookings, which they attributed to spill fears.
“This whole process is going to take three years,” Di Gennaro said. “By the time it’s over, I think we’ll get more than $200 million. Our economy needs it.”
Di Gennaro said Gulf Coast Claims Facility administrator Kenneth Feinberg pledged to the state task force that applicants would be able to track their claims status and speak to an adjuster if rejected.
“I want somebody to tell me why these people are not entitled, and no one will,” Di Gennaro said. “I’ve heard of marinas and restaurants getting rejected, but people on their staffs were approved. It’s crazy.”
Maddox got an initial payment from BP, and was told by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility that her claim seemed valid. “After sitting and waiting for 93 days, they told us we had no documented business loss. We did. I want to check their math but no one I can talk to knows anything.”
Di Gennaro said he will take up the local complaints at the next meeting of the state task force, probably in January. “I’m also a little frustrated with Monroe County,” Di Gennaro said. “Since I’m not on the County Commission any more, I’ve got no assistance in dealing with all these claims. I’ve asked, but nothing.”
Di Gennaro said he fully expects to be reappointed to the task force by incoming Gov. Rick Scott, but noted “things in Tallahassee also are little disorganized at the moment because of the change in administrations.”
What other coastal Florida counties received
Following are Florida’s coastal counties affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. The list begins with Escambia County on the Alabama border, closest to the actual spill, then runs east and south, then north to Palm Beach County.
Using Gulf Coast Claims Facility figures from Dec. 14, the list includes the county name, number of claims filed, claims paid and the total amount paid to claimants.