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Locals await oil spill funds

The effects of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill last April in the Gulf of Mexico were not only felt in nearby coastal communities, but throughout the Gulf Coast region as a whole.

Thousands of businesses throughout the south were crippled by slow tourism with restaurants dealing in seafood getting hit hard in the Escambia County area.

David’s Catfish House owner Rob Faircloth said he absorbed “substantial costs” at his restaurants in both Atmore and Brewton following the oil spill. For that reason, the business owner filed a claim with BP.

“I was persuaded by a colleague,” he said. “I was reluctant because things happen. We did have some substantial cost incurred last year in acquiring product; cost that we couldn’t pass on to our customers.”

Faircloth said the main trouble for his business was obtaining shrimp, oysters and crab claws, which counts for more than half his menu.

“We had always bought them locally,” Faircloth said. “Some of it became completely unavailable because we made sure everything we were selling was safe and came from a reliable source, which we use some of the best people in Bayou La Batre.”

To help efforts such as this, BP agreed to pay $20 billion to fulfill its financial liabilities to the Gulf Coast. Residents and businesses that incurred damages as a result of the spill were encouraged to submit claims to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) for things such as oil removal and clean up costs, damage to real or personal property and lost earnings or profits. Some claimants received compensation for lost rental income on beach properties.

Although he was hesitant to file a claim, Faircloth’s claim was filed a few weeks ago prior to the deadline.

“There were cost incurred in my industry that were substantial, I feel like,” he said. “There is money out there available and it would be in our best interest to let them know that we are here.”

According to statistics from the GCCF, 195 claims totaling $2.2 million were made from Escambia County. Of those claims, 124 were paid to residents of Escambia County for a total of $1.5 million; 43 were paid to residents of Escambia County who claimed their losses in the county totaling $365,000 and 28 were paid for people claiming losses in the county totaling $251,000.

Faircloth, however, has not received payment.

“I do not know where I am in the process,” he said. “We are also a member of the Alabama Restaurant Association and they have a class action lawsuit filed for all restaurants.”

The following is breakdown of claims from neighboring counties:

• Covington County: 71 claims totaling $1.3 million;

• Geneva County: 40 claims totaling $507,000;

• Coffee County: 28 claims totaling $337,000;

• Conecuh County: 9 claims totaling $133,000;

• Crenshaw County: 10 claims totaling $58,000; and

• Butler County: 13 claims totaling $245,000.

At the present, $3.8 billion — or 19 percent of the $20 billion the oil company agreed to set aside to fulfill its financial liabilities to the Gulf Coast — has been paid to individuals and businesses affected by the spill. If the current rate of payouts is maintained, roughly half of the $20 billion in funds will revert to BP after the August 2013 deadline for payment of claims.

As for Faircloth, he said its business as usual at his seafood restaurants.

“We have recovered and prices are back stable again,” he said.

Other local businesses and individuals have filed claims with BP, but were unable to comment.

Andalusia Star-News reporter Stephanie Nelson contributed to this article.