JACKSON, Miss. – The fund set up to compensate victims of last year's BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has paid more than $5 billion in claims, the fund administrator said Tuesday.
Washington D.C. lawyer Kenneth Feinberg also released a summary of payouts from the $20 billion fund, which was established in August 2010 to help people whose lives and businesses were hurt by the spill.
The report says the Gulf Coast Claims Facility had received 947,892 claims from all 50 states and 36 foreign counties. It said 359,441 claims were paid and 430,000 were denied. Some are pending. Others are still coming in.
"The GCCF has largely succeeded in its primary objective — to compensate those individuals and businesses who can demonstrate financial harm due to the Oil Spill," the report says. "The compensation program has not been perfect; but several midcourse corrections have been made in an effort to deal with the constructive criticism offered by victims of the spill, public officials, and others."
Critics say the claims process has been too slow, difficult to navigate and lacked transparency. The critics include Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who sued Feinberg in July to get access to claims filed by coastal residents. Hood says he wants to make the claims process more transparent.
"The only success Mr. Feinberg has had is in coercing desperate victims of the spill to have to accept whatever was offered," Hood said in a written statement Tuesday. "At this point, only a little over 23 percent of Mississippi interim claimants have been paid. On average, businesses have been paid $5,421 in interim claim payments, and individuals $5,297. It looks like he did a good job for BP, not for Mississippians."
According to the report, Florida had the most paid claims, with 150,920 totaling more than $2 billion. Louisiana followed with 115,702 claims paid totaling about $1.5 billion. Alabama had 53,681 claims paid totaling $862 million. Mississippi had 30,193 claims paid totaling $387 million. All other paid claims, 8,945, totaled $262 million.
"Florida received the most GCCF compensation because it is the most populous state in the Gulf and we received the most claims from Florida," Feinberg said in a written statement. "In addition, Florida tourism suffered as a result of the spill even if the oil plume was limited from Pensacola to Panama City. The adverse impact of the spill on Florida tourism resulted in eligible claims from hotels and restaurants throughout the state."
The report said 61,558 new claims were received in the past three months, an average of 4,397 a week. The claims process is to remain in place until August 2013.
Eleven workers were killed April 20, 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana. Some 206 million gallons of oil spewed from the well a mile beneath the sea, according to government estimates.