Make us your home page
Instagram

Obama's BP claims czar pledges prompt aid for oil spill victims

TAMPA — President Barack Obama's newly appointed BP claims czar promised greater and prompter payouts for Floridians facing economic losses from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill during his first official stop in the state Thursday.

In what he promised would be the first of many visits, Washington lawyer Kenneth Feinberg met Gov. Charlie Crist in Tampa for a private, hourlong discussion of his emerging claims process.

Feinberg said victims will soon receive payments in six-month lump sums instead of smaller, monthly checks, per Crist's request. He also agreed to come back to Florida to meet with Crist and business owners whose earnings have sunk since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion began releasing streams of oil into the gulf on April 20.

"You cannot do this from Washington," said Feinberg, who oversaw compensation for Sept. 11 victims. "You have to come down to Florida and Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana and meet local people who are adversely impacted by the spill."

He vowed to staff claims offices throughout the state with local people who will guide confused or overwhelmed victims through the application process.

Crist and Feinberg both made overtures of swift assistance and efficient responses.

"We have a duty and an obligation, as much as is humanly possible, to make people and small business owners whole in the wake of this incredible disaster that we are all dealing with," Crist said.

But when and to what extent Florida will benefit from the $20 billion claims fund provided by BP at Obama's behest remained unknown. Feinberg said he expects BP to turn over the claims process to his staff this month. His work will be guided by discussions with those most affected by the spill, he said.

As of this week, BP has cut more than 6,000 checks in Florida and paid out $20 million, according to BP.

Feinberg urged all businesses with financial woes traceable to the spill to file a claim, including Tampa Bay area businesses battling fears that local shores are or will soon be tainted with oil.

"I can't help anyone in Florida if they don't file a claim," he said.

Still, applicants will need to support their claims, and Feinberg has asked the Justice Department to weed out dishonest petitions, he said. "Nothing will undercut the credibility of this program more than the evidence of fraud," he said.

Feinberg had previously met with other gulf state governors, but delayed meeting with Crist until Thursday. With their political careers now inextricably mired in oil muck, Crist and Feinberg both seemed eager to present an agreeable front.

Feinberg earned his post after some national leaders deemed the Obama administration's response to the spill uncoordinated at best.

Crist, an independent candidate for U.S. Senate, also needs a triumphant finale. He has replaced campaign stops with frequent visits to the Florida panhandle in recent weeks, a gamble that seems to be paying off.

Before meeting with Feinberg, Crist addressed government leaders gathered for a state conference in Tampa.

"These claims need to be paid, and they need to be paid now," he said, drawing a shower of applause at the event hosted by the Florida Association of Counties, a group typically critical of Crist's policies.

Hours later, Feinberg declared his meeting with Crist a success.

"The governor did most of the talking, and I did most of the listening," Feinberg said.

Cristina Silva can be reached at csilva@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8846.

Obama's BP claims czar pledges prompt aid for oil spill victims 07/01/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 1, 2010 10:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul

    Markets

    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  2. Florida's economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall

    Business

    When it comes to economic growth, Florida's running alongside the leading states and well ahead of the United States as a whole.

  3. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  4. Posh Guy Harvey RV park to open in Tampa Bay with $250,000 cottages

    Business

    HOLIDAY — Love those Guy Harvey T-shirts with the soaring marlins? In the not too distant future, you might be able to kick back in your own Guy Harvey cottage in the first-ever Guy Harvey RV park.

    Renderings of the clubhouse and an RV cottage site of the planned Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Tarpon Springs.
[Guy Harvey Outpost Collection]
  5. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel

    Business

    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.