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January 2, 2013

Nonprofits that responded to 2010 BP oil spill may be eligible for financial recovery

by: Joseph F. Rice

When people think about the losses suffered because of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, they consider the 11 men who lost their lives; the damage to wetlands and the loss of wildlife; the impact on the livelihood of professional seafood industry workers (e.g. boat owners, captains deckhands, leaseholders, fishers, shrimpers and oystermen and women); or the hard hit that businesses in the tourism and other industries took. What many people may not realize, however, is that some of the hardest hit after the oil spill were nonprofit organizations.

When disaster struck, nonprofits were among the first responders to provide assistance to those in need. From churches such as the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans to food banks such as the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, numerous organizations dug deeply into their pockets, and many continue to be of service to communities along the Gulf Coast.

The Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement, which was granted final approval by Judge Carl Barbier on Dec. 21, 2012, recognizes that  hundreds of  nonprofits lost income in 2010. Victims of the domino effect, many nonprofits have budgets that are largely based on funding from grants and corporate donors, as well as individual gifts and tithes. When these sources experienced losses following the spill, many nonprofits did as well. As one of the settlement’s negotiators, I know that it was designed to help not only businesses but also nonprofits, recognizing them as members of the class.

You might be surprised to learn that nonprofits such as local churches, Boys and Girls clubs, chaplaincy groups, local Red Cross chapters, and other relief groups and civic organizations, may have claims. As varied as they are, these organizations all may have suffered losses as a result of the spill.

If you are a member of a church, serve on a board of directors of a nonprofit organization, or are even a CPA who assists with a nonprofit’s accounting and bookkeeping, and you know the organization experienced a revenue dip after the oil spill, consider encouraging the organization to file a claim.

As we enter the new year, help to ensure that your church or the nonprofit organization you support starts 2013 out right by looking to the Economic and Property Damages Settlement for help. When the community needed these organizations for aid, help and assistance in 2010, these organizations were there for the community—and they may have exhausted reserve funds and had reduced income from grants, gifts or operations. Now is the time to have the losses compensated by the responsible parties under the court-supervised Deepwater Horizon Settlement Program.