ORANGE BEACH, Ala. – Oil spill claims czar Ken Feinberg has agreed to consider claims by businesses that are not directly connected to the beach or water, as long as those businesses can show monetary losses, Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said Monday night.
Kennon said the policy change will allow businesses previously denied their claims to refile.
“I consider this a significant breakthrough,” Kennon said of the change in policy.
Kennon said Feinberg made the agreement at a meeting in Pensacola on Monday that included Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward III and Florida state Rep. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze.
The change in policy came days after Associate U.S. Attorney General Tom Perrelli asked Feinberg in a letter to reconsider his decision to deny payments to certain types of businesses.
Kennon said that many coastal businesses, such as doctors, veterinarians, marketing firms and auto dealerships, had been “summarily denied” claims despite being able to show losses.
“For us, this was not only an environmental disaster, but even more, it was an economic disaster,” Kennon said. “All claims are legitimate if they can show a loss.”
Perrelli’s letter to Feinberg last week said that federal law does not allow businesses to be deemed ineligible for payments. Instead, the letter stated that compensation be given to any business harmed as a result of the spill.
Perrelli’s letter came after Kennon and other coastal leaders met with him last week to express their concerns that Feinberg’s eligibility criteria were blocking payment of legitimate claims.
Claimants can, on a continuing basis through August 2013, file claims for three months’ worth of losses at a time without ceding their rights to future payments.
They can also accept a final settlement that requires them to promise not to seek future compensation or to sue BP PLC or any other company involved in the spill.
Another option allows any of the 168,000 businesses and individuals who received emergency checks to get further money without further proof of damage, provided they also sign a lawsuit waiver. That amount is $5,000 for individuals and $25,000 for businesses.