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CFO Sink Calls on Incoming Cabinet to Continue Oversight, Advocacy for Oil Spill Victims

12/21/2010

CONTACT: Jerri Franz, 850-413-2842

TALLAHASSEE – Florida CFO Alex Sink today sent a letter to the incoming members of the Florida Cabinet urging their continued advocacy and oversight for the people of the Gulf Coast as they continue to struggle with an inefficient claims process.  CFO Sink also urged the newly-elected Cabinet Officials to support legislative steps that will ensure Florida’s citizens have better recourse against future disasters.

“The BP oil spill will have a long-lasting impact on all Floridians.  I urge you to maintain close oversight of the GCCF protocol and process and continue to advocate for the Florida citizens who have suffered as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” CFO Sink wrote.  “I also strongly believe that additional state legislation is required to better protect Florida’s citizens, and especially our business owners, in the event a disaster like this one should ever occur in the future.”

The letter to the incoming Cabinet Officers follows recent actions by CFO Sink to highlight continued problems with the claims process. Sink, joined by Attorney General McCollum, wrote to Claims Administrator Ken Feinberg about the challenges and inefficiencies faced by Floridians with the current claims protocol and she sent a letter to President Obama urging his intervention to improve the process for our state’s businesses and residents.  Since news first broke of the oil spill, CFO Sink has been an outspoken advocate for impacted small businesses who have incurred damages; for more information, visit: www.myfloridacfo.com/oilspill.

A full copy of CFO Sink’s letter to the newly-elected Members of the Florida Cabinet is below:

December 21, 2010

Re: Continued Oversight and Advocacy for Florida’s Gulf Coast

Dear Governor-elect and Incoming Members of the Florida Cabinet:

As you know, Floridians continue to suffer as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  In order to protect our state’s economy and citizens, I am writing to urge the incoming Cabinet to continue addressing the claims process challenges faced by Gulf Coast business owners and residents and to support legislative steps that will ensure Florida’s citizens have better recourse against future disasters. 

Because claimants who receive final payments will be required to sign a release of liability, it is especially important that Florida’s newly-elected officials keep a close watch on the claims process to ensure that Floridians receive fair and equitable payments for their losses.

As of December 4, 2010, of the more than 150,000 Floridians who filed claims with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) under the Emergency Claims Process, the majority have not received any payment.  Only about 60,000 claims have been paid.  The thousands of Floridians whose livelihoods have been devastated through no fault of their own deserve more timely and positive results.

During the last meeting of the current Florida Cabinet, I articulated many of my ongoing concerns with GCCF’s treatment of our citizens.  I have enclosed a letter recently sent by Attorney General McCollum and myself to Claims Administrator Feinberg detailing our ongoing reservations with the current claims process and Interim and Final Claims Protocol.  I urge you to review our specific concerns thoroughly, and I sincerely hope that you continue to advocate for changes on behalf of the tens of thousands of Floridians who are still struggling as a result of BP’s oil spill.

The claims process often times remains inefficient and unfair.  It is a process carried out mainly in the dark, without helpful communication between claimants and the GCCF and with a lack of information available to claimants about the types of supporting documentation required. Florida’s existing laws would not allow this kind of treatment of our citizens by insurance providers had this been a natural disaster and not a man-made disaster. 

While the current claims process is being guided by federal law, I also strongly believe that additional state legislation is required to better protect Florida’s citizens, and especially our business owners, in the event a disaster like this one should ever occur in the future.  Several other states have laws that allow for much broader recovery for their businesses, particularly when it comes to issues of proximity to the disaster.  Florida should take similar steps. 

I have enclosed an oil spill recovery analysis completed by legal experts with the Department of Financial Services that in part details differences between the protections afforded by Florida and other states.  By supporting the passage of legislation in the upcoming 2011 Legislative Session, you could safeguard our citizens against some of the challenges they are currently facing if a situation like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill ever occurred again. 

The BP oil spill will have a long-lasting impact on all Floridians.  I urge you to maintain close oversight of the GCCF protocol and process and continue to strongly advocate for the Florida citizens who have suffered as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Sincerely,

Alex Sink