Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) sent a clear message last week in filing his first-ever piece of legislation – 75% of the BP oil spill settlement money belongs to the 8 Northwest Florida counties most impacted and not anyone else.
Senate bill 364 further strengthens state law requiring most of the settlement money from the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill go to an independent organization that will ensure the funds are spent in Northwest Florida.
“My message in filing this legislation is simple – the only part of our state that is entitled to receive 75% of this oil spill settlement money are the 8 counties in Northwest Florida,” said Senator Gainer. “I’ve worked on this issue since the spill first happened in 2010 and I made a promise to voters that I would see this to completion. My top priority is to see that this money remains in Northwest Florida per the legal settlement agreement.”
The first payment in the settlement, $300 million, is scheduled to be transferred to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. later this year. That organization will then determine how the money is spent, while also guaranteeing it stays in Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton and Wakulla counties.
Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. is tasked to work with local governments to make awards to programs and projects that meet the priorities for economic recovery, diversification, and enhancement of the disproportionately affected counties. This includes economic development projects, grants to support programs of excellence that prepare students for future occupations, as well as infrastructure projects.
“Northwest Florida’s legislative delegation is unified in fighting to keep this money from being diverted to other portions of the state. I’ve also found strong support from Senate and House leadership. This settlement represents the future of Northwest Florida. Nothing I am doing is more important than this,” added Gainer.