Businesses that suffered from the BP oil disaster have a new claims process listen08/23/12 Janelle Irwin
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Some businesses along the Gulf coast are getting a second chance to get reimbursed by BP for lost revenue as a result of the 2010 oil disaster. But thousands of businesses in Florida havenâ€™t taken advantage of the settlement. Thursday morning in St. Pete Beach business leaders met with a lawyer whose job it is to get them their money.
Any business along the Gulf coast that can prove they lost revenue during and after the BP oil spill can file a claim to get their money back. And Patrick Juneau is the man that will get it for them.
â€œItâ€™s all relative to what their loss was or what they can demonstrate to us as what the loss is. It could be huge. It could be small. It could be somewhere in between. But itâ€™s all dictated by numbers that should be relatively available and if you have that and meet those tests, we gonna pay you what the loss is.â€
Juneau is the claims administrator for the court-supervised Deepwater Horizon settlement program. That group is taking over for the Gulf Coast Claims Facility that used to determine whether a company or individual was eligible for a piece of BPâ€™s pie.
â€œThis is a fund BP had agreed to fund a trust to pay for all claims that were deemed eligible and payable in its program, they have agreed to pay those kind of claims consistent with the settlement agreement.
â€œWith no cap?
This settlement agreement is different than the one the Federal Government will divvy up among the five Gulf states affected by the spill. In the RESTORE Act, states will share anywhere from 5-20 billion dollars for recovery efforts. Member of Congress Kathy Castor said this settlement is specifically for businesses.
â€œThere are thousands and thousands of businesses and individuals that have not been compensated due to the damage caused by the BP blowout. They can file a claim. Itâ€™s probably in the millions of dollars that are due back in the pockets of the mom and pop restaurants, the small businesses along the coast and weâ€™re going to be aggressive in making sure they have the information to file those claims.â€
Castor said a lot of business owners tried to get some of the settlement money through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, but were denied.
â€œIf a small business tried months ago to get monies from BP because they lost customers or they lost revenues they should try again because this is entirely new Federal Court opportunity to go out and get the monies that are due them.â€
The Florida Aquarium is one of those companies.
â€œThere is an opportunity, there is an avenue to re-file, to appeal that process and we will go through that appeal.â€
Thatâ€™s the aquariumâ€™s CEO Thom Stork. He described how the claims process works. Itâ€™s all a matter of following a money trail to prove that there was a loss in revenue.
â€œYou try to get to like situations, apples to apples. There was some economic downturn, certainly. So, youâ€™ve got to evaluate that, exclude that from the variances. Itâ€™s a mathematical situation that youâ€™ve got to go through to do comparisons and not just against one year. Youâ€™ve got to do it against four or five years.â€
But filing a claim is complicated. And the methodology behind approving claims seemed inconsistent at times. The Museum of Science and Industry filed a claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility that was almost identical to the Florida Aquariumâ€™s. The museumâ€™s president, Wit Ostrenko, said his claim was approved.
â€œWhen the actual Deep Horizon oil was coming on shore - not where we are here, but in north Florida â€“ it was just blasted all over the airwaves. Literally, I was on trips around the country and people were wondering how it was affecting our science center and I really didnâ€™t know.â€
After looking into it, Ostrenko said the museum lost around a quarter of a million dollars â€“ the claim got that back. Keith Overton is the chief operating officer for Tradewinds Island Resort on St. Pete Beach. He and his company have also already been compensated by BP. But Overton is sticking with the game to help out businesses that havenâ€™t gotten a pay out yet - even businesses that have gone under since the oil disaster.
â€œWhether they have the tenacity to go file or not I donâ€™t know. I mean, who knows what theyâ€™re doing now, how they feel about it? Some people are just broken as a result of it.â€
But the money is there and itâ€™s limitless. So the hotelier wants as many people to take advantage of it. So does U.S. Representative Castor.
â€œIf they suffered economic damage, if you lost customers, if you lost business after the BP blowout you can file a claim. Itâ€™s not even a lawsuit, but our small businesses and folks working here in tourism and in restaurants and hotels and motels â€“ there are monies available to compensate you for what was lost due to BPâ€™s blowout and BP should be accountable. It shouldnâ€™t be the businesses here that have to pick up one dime of one cent for the damage that the blowout caused.â€
Business owners who think they might qualify can file a claim online at DeepwaterHorizonSettlements.com or by going to one of the claims centers scattered throughout the five affected states. Thereâ€™s one located on Drew Street in Clearwater.