Earlier this month the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear BP’s appeal of its own Settlement Agreement. The decision saw through all of BP’s smoke and mirrors, denying the oil company’s petition for review, and leaving intact a landmark Settlement for the people and businesses of the Gulf Coast.
The Supreme Court’s decision also set in motion the final six months in which a private business can file a claim for economic losses. The BP claim filing deadline is now June 8, 2015.
Nearly all businesses in West Central Florida are eligible to file a claim, and by some estimates, 50% of those that do will qualify for compensation averaging over $100,000. Such would be a significant, much deserved economic stimulus for the region, likely exceeding $4 billion in aggregate.
Yet to-date, less than 30% of eligible Tampa Bay area businesses have participated. The Supreme Court’s ratification of the program should encourage those who have not yet come forward to do so – now.
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 below, the West Coast of Florida, particularly the area south of the Panhandle, experienced the greatest job losses. Over 50,000 positions were eliminated and 10,000 companies closed their doors for good because of BP’s gross negligence. The resulting economic malaise trickled down into nearly every industry.
This should come as no surprise to students of the tourism-centric Florida economy. As a hypothetical, imagine the European visitor on holiday. 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 making her way through Tampa where she stops for gas at a BP station before heading to a five day Clearwater 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 beaches may be oiled.
Of course, it is not only the beachfront hotels, restaurants, bars and t-shirt shops (primary impacts) that lose when she chooses California. Naturally, all manner of upstream Florida industry is likewise affected, from companies that service the tourism sector (secondary impacts), to the entities well inland which serve those secondary sectors (tertiary impacts). Think construction and trades people (plumbers, roofers, electricians), professionals (lawyers, engineers, architects, doctors, veterinarians, dentists), manufacturers, wholesalers, and more.
This is why the court appointed Claims Administrator, Patrick Juneau, told The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans, “When in doubt, file a claim.”
“To make his point, Juneau ticked off a list of claimants who were recently awarded a settlement: a farmer in Monroe, a clothing store in Baton Rouge, a construction company in north Louisiana. He said reams of businesses not usually associated with oiled birds and tar-stained beaches may be eligible: churches and nonprofit agencies; private schools; machine shops and car dealerships.
“Juneau said the universe of eligible claimants is far broader than most people assume. Any individual in the Gulf that can demonstrate a defined financial loss around the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster can make a claim, and ‘essentially any kind of business at all,’ he said.” – Claims Administrator Juneau in The Times-Picayune, November 1, 2012
To be sure, only those who experienced a loss of profits or earnings relating in any way to, directly or indirectly, the Deepwater Horizon Incident will be compensated. It just so happens that a majority of regional businesses had such an unfortunate experience.
When in doubt, file a claim. You are now on the clock.