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4,122 Lee County businesses and individuals have filed economic loss claims with the BP Deepwater Horizon Court Supervised Settlement Program (CSSP). The CSSP began receiving claims on June 4, 2012 and will likely continue at least into the Spring of 2015. As of the date of publishing listed above, the precise claim filing deadline has yet to be set. For this reason, all businesses in Lee County that experienced an economic loss as a result of the spill are encouraged to undergo an eligibility evaluation as soon as possible.

Of the 4,122 Lee County claims currently filed, 431 have been paid to-date for a total of $47,000,000, resulting in an average claim value of $109,000. Assuming all 4,122 claims are paid, and no additional claims are filed, Lee businesses will receive $449,000,000 over the next two years.

Lee County BP Claim Payment Statistics
Lee County BP Claim Payment Statistics. Official BP Deepwater Horizon Court Supervised Settlement Program data. Map courtesy of The Sarasota-Herald Tribune.

According to the latest U.S. Census figures, there are approximately 65,000 business and non-profit entities in Lee County. Through our experience in evaluating eligibility for over 2,000 companies and non-profits, we estimate that one-fourth to one-third of all Lee County businesses suffered a measurable economic loss as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster and are eligible for compensation under this program. Conservatively, that suggests that approximately 16,250 Lee entities should file claims, yet to-date only 4,122 have done so, or less than 30%.

Were all eligible Lee County businesses to file claims, based on the average claim value for the county, we would expect an infusion of $1.7 billion into the county over the next two years. As such, this is an economic development matter of great local and regional importance. Our elected officials, Chambers of Commerce, trade groups, professional associations and economic development organizations should actively encourage eligible claimants to participate.

Job losses associated with BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
The Florida Gulf Coast, particularly the area south of the Panhandle, endured the greatest job losses. This includes large metropolitan areas like Tampa / St. Petersburg, Sarasota / Bradenton, Ft. Myers / Naples as well as the tourism dependent Florida Keys.

Lest there remain doubts of the severity of the impact BP’s spill had on our economy, one need look no further than a study released by Harvard University in August 2014. As depicted in the chart above, the West Coast of Florida, particularly the area south of the Panhandle, experienced the greatest job losses. Over 50,000 jobs were eliminated and 10,000 companies closed their doors for good. The resulting economic malaise trickled down into nearly every industry as confirmed by this December 2013 report from economist Timothy Ryan, Ph.D.

This should come as no surprise to students of the tourism-centric Florida economy. As a hypothetical, imagine the European visitor on vacation. This person may typically fly into Orlando and spend a few days at Disney World before driving west on I-4, stopping for a bite at Hooters off Exit 32, then heading south on I-75 for a seven day Ft. Myers Beach vacation. In the Summer of 2010, she instead flew to Anaheim, California where she spent three days at Disneyland before taking the 405 to Newport Beach. Worse, rather than returning in 2011, this tourist now chooses California for her holiday, fearing the Florida coast remains oiled.

When considering these dynamics, all businesses in eligible BP compensation zones (yellow, purple, red and gray areas) have a duty to determine their eligibility. They owe it to their shareholders, employees and community. BP, seeking to avoid punitive damages, agreed, and is contractually obligated to pay, all businesses that experienced a loss “relating in any way to, directly or indirectly, the Deepwater Horizon Incident.” See Settlement Agreement, Section 38.57.

That said, determining loss as a result of the spill is not as easy as you may think and it is not a job for the layperson. Don’t just assume you were not affected because you don’t run the local waterfront motel. In fact, some of the areas hardest hit by the economic fallout suffered little if any physical oiling.

For these reasons, I strongly encourage you to seek professional guidance as soon as possible.

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