The Bay Waveland Yacht Club was filled with tourism directors this afternoon reflecting on four years of progress since the oil spill in the Gulf. A court-appointed claims official was a guest speaker and he was pleased with what he has seen in Hancock County. The BP oil spill of 2010 smacked the Gulf Coast economy long term. Wednesday, the man enforcing the claim payouts made an appearance in Hancock County to see the progress made to what was a devastated region. The Hancock County Chamber of Commerce and Bay St. Louis Rotary invited the man over the BP oil spill claims to check on the region that the grant money was set to improve.
Patrick Juneau, the claims administrator for Deepwater Horizon claims, says, "I was asked to come over here today for the people so they can give me personal reports on what they have done with the grants, really a follow up to the grants that we’ve made." Twelve coastal organizations who collectively received over $4 million in last year's grants heard from Juneau about recovery from the 2010 disaster. Tish Williams, the Executive Director of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, says, "It gave us an opportunity to showcase the results and the impact those grants have had on boosting tourism on the Mississippi Coast." Steven Teague, an attorney for the Mississippi Center for Justice, says, "But we don't want people to think that BP has made it right like they claimed that they would and the tourism commercials would have you believe." Teague says they still have people that have yet to recover their losses, especially now that the courts have placed an injunction, stopping small business payouts.
Teague also says, "There hasn't been any activity. It’s been halted, and so we haven’t gotten any payments for business claimants, small businesses that need every cent they can get." Juneau also says, "We continue to process the claim, we’re just not issuing the eligibility notice, and the sooner we get to the resolution of the issue, the sooner we can finalize those payments, which we want to do.”
Juneau says it’s a long way to go before the progress is complete on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but he says he is quite pleased with the progress that he has seen. Juneau closes, “What these people said they were going to do from this area, they’ve done. I think the benefits economically to this region will be affected by that and that’s a good thing.” Legislation surrounding oil spill recovery money is currently being reviewed by the 5th Circuit Court. The grants are designed to boost tourism, but one of the largest economic engines, the casino industry, has been circumvented. Casino workers are not included in the settlement as written. Juneau says the deadline for any more claims is next month.