At a meeting for oil spill victims hosted by Sen. Bill Nelson at the University of West Florida, claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg sought to reassure people frustrated and confused by the BP claims process.

“I’m here to serve the people of Florida,” he said. “Don’t be misled by my accent.”

Though they may be encountering hassles and delays at local BP claims offices, Feinberg said everyone from owners of vacation properties to wedding planners who help couples exchange vows on the beach would be eligible to file claims once he takes over on Aug. 23, provided they rely on the Gulf of Mexico for their income.

Andrew Restuccia explains:

This system, as I’ve reported, could require experts to predict impacts of the spill years down the road, in some cases before those impacts are adequately understood. Feinberg, speaking at the forum, said he would base the long-term claims on an “agreed-upon view of future risk”

Feinberg also said he would approve claims based on three basic criteria: proximity to the Gulf, a claimant’s dependence on Gulf natural resources and the industry that is affected. Proximity to the spill will be a major factor, he said, noting that he’s seen claims from 48 states, most of which don’t have adequate evidence to show significant economic damages.

Once a business or individual is deemed eligible (a hurdle, Feinberg has said previously, groups such as fishermen have already cleared), the next step would be for that person to prove how much they are owed. He said claims processors would try to accept a broad range of proof of lost income as a result of the spill.

“We will bend over backwards to get the money out the door,” he said.

Feinberg also said the independently administered fund would offer pro-bono legal advice to people seeking compensation.

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