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Sep 14, 2010 5:55 PM by Melissa Canone

Administrator of the $20 Billion "Skeptical" of Claims Not Close to Disaster

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The administrator of the $20 billion
compensation fund for victims of the Gulf oil spill said Tuesday he
is "skeptical" of claims that are not in close proximity to the
BP disaster but is becoming more flexible on the issue.
Ken Feinberg told members of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging
Association that emergency relief was not likely in most cases far
from the spill, a problem for many businesses - especially those in
the Sunshine State - that have suffered in large part because of
the perception oil has washed ashore on all the beaches.
He urged business owners to fill out claims, speak with lawyers
and then he would review the claims and work to find a solution
without clogging courtrooms.
"I was skeptical of the eligibility of lodging and restaurants
far from the spill. I still am skeptical," Feinberg said. "But I
must say, that having spent a good deal of time chatting ... I'm
trying to help. I'm walking a tight rope.
"If I say no, what have I done but drive you into the court
system? That is something the center is designed to avoid. I make
no promises. ... I am troubled by this. I just want you to
understand that, in theory, if proximity is totally irrelevant,
that it has no bearing at all, I will be inundated with claims from
50 states."
Businesses aren't the only ones upset over the claims process.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Democratic nominee for governor
Alex Sink co-signed a letter to Feinberg on Tuesday, pleading with
him to process claims more quickly. They said the process was
moving too slowly and some businesses might not survive without
emergency relief.
"This is just not right," Sink said.
Feinberg said the fund has paid out $175 million since he took
over processing claims three weeks ago. Before that, BP was in
charge of paying out claims, and it paid nearly $400 million.
He said businesses not in the immediate proximity and without
clear documentation that they lost money because of the spill will
not be paid. Those qualifications have become major obstacles for
Florida businesses - many far from the spill - since the April 20
rig explosion killed 11 workers and led to 206 million gallons of
oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.
Aside from the western Florida panhandle, where tar balls and
small patches of oil have hit beaches, the Sunshine State was
largely spared from the crude. However, many businesses around the
state have been hurt by the perception that their beaches also were
ruined, said Keith Overton, chairman of the Florida Restaurant and
Lodging Association.
"Our season was damaged," Overton said. "Our cash flow was
taken away. We are going now into months where we actually lose
money. So to think that we're not going to have some of that cash
replaced or replenished going into these times forces us to make
decisions that are not in the best interest of our businesses."

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