TALLAHASSEE — Florida individuals and businesses have so far received more than $2 billion in payouts because of the BP oil spill, but the going may get tougher for some, with federal overseers having tightened requirements earlier this week for future payments under the $20 billion claims fund program.
Citing signs of economic recovery around the region, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has said publicly that the effects of the April 2010 spill are dissipating rapidly. The group reiterated that message Tuesday with a notice on its website that said modifications were being made to its payout parameters.
"It is clear, that as time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine whether changes in revenue and earnings are due to the oil spill or other factors," the notice said.
As of Tuesday, the GCCF had received 314,098 claims from 190,831 separate individuals and businesses in Florida who say their livelihoods were affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that shut down fisheries and kept vacation rentals empty along the Gulf Coast. So far, the GCCF has paid 148,623 claimants a total of $2.05 billion.
The payouts represent about 41 percent of the $5.1 billion in GCCF payouts to individuals and businesses in all gulf states affected by the spill. In all, the agency run by Kenneth Feinberg has resolved requests from 447,544 claimants, about 85 percent of those who have filed.
In Florida, Okaloosa County claimants have collected $479 million while nearly $420 million in payments have gone to private parties in Bay County. Escambia County claimants so far have received $259.2 million.
But coastal businesses aren't the only recipients. A Gilchrist County resident has collected $21,880, while a claimant in inland Glades County has received $23,400 from four claims filed.
Others are still waiting. Shannon Hartsfield, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers Association, is still seeking payment for losses to his commercial fishing livelihood.
"I haven't heard anything from them," said Hartsfield, whose initial final claim request was denied.
Florida's cities and counties have collected more than $31 million from BP for efforts to respond to and clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history, according to the latest figures tracked by the company.
Also Tuesday, the agency published a change to its final settlement protocol, as it is trying to limit future payments because of the lessening economic effects of the spill due to the return of tourists to the region.
Citing local and state revenue figures, the agency has said that much of the economy has rebounded and payment in many cases should begin tailing off.