BP Oil Spill Fund Claims Administrator Will Allow Emergency Payouts to Realtors

Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the BP oil spill compensation fund, has decided to set aside $60 million of the $20 billion fund to pay Gulf Coast Realtors for business lost due to the spill. It’s an about-face for Feinberg, who had originally said he would not allocate fund money toward real estate businesses or Realtors.

Over the summer, BP agreed to set aside at least $20 billion to pay economic loss and physical damage claims stemming from the BP oil spill. Feinberg, who had previously administered the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund, was tapped to oversee the BP fund. Businesses, individuals and government entities who suffered economic losses or physical injury as a result of the BP oil spill are eligible to file two types of claims: Emergency Advance Payments and long-term final damage claims. They have until November 23, 2010 to file Emergency Advance Payment claims for up to 6 months of economic losses or physical injuries. Claims forms for final payments must be submitted by August 23, 2013.

The $60 million is being set aside to pay Realtors’ emergency claims. Feinberg is deferring decisions on payouts to Realtor associations in the five Gulf States affected by the oil spill – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

In other news, NPR is reporting that Feinberg’s law firm, Feinberg Rozen LLP, has been paid about $3.35 million from BP PLC to administer the BP compensation fund. The firm received $850,000 a month starting in mid-June, according to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Those payments will continue through the end of the year, at which time, the contract with the firm will be reviewed.

For some people along the Gulf Coast, the revelation of significant fees from BP are undermining Feinberg’s claims that he is operating independently of the oil giant, NPR said.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s working for BP,” said Louisiana shrimp processor Dean Blanchard. “He can say he’s independent, but he’s working for BP and he’s low-balling all of us, the people affected the most.”

As of November 3, the claims fund had paid victims about $1.7 billion. The facility has received about 337,000 claims for compensation. About 97,000 have been paid or approved for payment. Another 97,000 claimants have filed requests for money but have provided no documentation to back up their losses, according to Feinberg. To date, about 32,000 claimants have been denied.

Once the November 23 deadline for filing emergency claims passes, claimants will only be able to submit a claim for a final settlement from BP. If they accept the final settlement offer, they must give up their right to ever sue BP.

Help filing claims and other legal assistance for the victims of the BP oil spill is available at www.bigspill.com.

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