TAMPA — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor applauded a decision today not to let geographic distance block the consideration of monetary claims resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, announced earlier today that geographic proximity would not prevent a legitimate individual or business claim from being processed. Feinberg is in charge of authorizing payment of claims from a $20 billion fund that oil giant BP has pledged for compensation.
“This is great news for our hardworking small-business owners and tourism leaders on Florida’s Gulf Coast,” Castor said after the announcement.
“Although the Tampa Bay area has had no oil on its beaches, our hotels, restaurants and fishermen have been affected nonetheless,” said Castor, D-Tampa.
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“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,” Castor said. “Mr. Feinberg clearly heard from us about just how important it is for these claims to have a fair review.”
Feinberg acknowledged in his announcement that his decision was prompted in part by pleas from Florida officials.
“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,” Feinberg said.
Feinberg said he will continue to review each claim on a case-by-case basis, and claimants must prove damages resulting from the spill itself and not other causes.
However, “physical proximity from the spill will not, in and of itself, bar the processing of legitimate claims,” he said.
In six weeks, almost $1 billion in claims have been paid to 50,000 individuals and businesses throughout the Gulf Coast.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.