$69 million paid out in BP oil spill claims

Gulf Coast businesses and residents harmed in the 2010 oil spill have received nearly $68.7 million so far under a settlement with BP, according to court documents filed Friday.

Payments have been made in 1,784 of the nearly 65,000 claims submitted by  shrimpers, property owners and others who say they financially suffered as a result of the catastrophic accident. The first payments were issued July 31.

The claims and payments are handled by the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center. Its administrator,  Lynn Greer, filed the status update Friday with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the tangle of litigation arising from the blowout of BP’s Macondo well and resulting deadly  explosion of Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Most payouts so far have gone to claimants who participated in BP’s Vessels of Opportunity program, local fishing vessels and crews that assisted in the spill clean up and say that their boats and property were damaged in the process or that  BP didn’t fully pay for their work.

Of the 5,941 claims submitted related to the Vessels of Opportunity program, offers have been made to 4,156, worth $176.6 million. As of Oct. 3, $50.7 million has been paid out to 1,210 of those claimants.

Claims related to the Vessels of Opportunity program make up 9 percent of those submitted. Meanwhile, 30 percent of all claims are categorized as an “individual economic loss,” from people who say they lost income because of the spill.

Of the 19,338 individual economic loss claims submitted, 79 claimants have received payment offers totaling $850,968, resulting in six payments totaling  $38,173 as of Wednesday.

“The restaurant worker, the bartender, the real estate agent – with the small business people and individuals, almost nobody has been paid,” said attorney Paul Danziger, who is representing claimants in the oil spill case.

More than half of the claims come from Louisiana and Florida. About 5 percent of the submitted claims come from Texas.