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BP spill money to help storm-battered counties

TALLAHASSEE — Money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill will help governments in four storm-battered Northwest Florida counties with anticipated property-tax losses caused by Hurricane Michael.

The Triumph Gulf Coast Board agreed Monday to use $15 million for losses believed to be incurred by local governments in Bay, Franklin, Gulf and Wakulla counties. Triumph Gulf Coast, a nonprofit created by the Legislature, will provide the money from the state’s $2 billion BP settlement stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The board initially proposed setting aside the money through bridge loans to the local governments. Instead, it agreed to ask the four counties to each submit a list of projected property-tax losses from the storm that will be incurred by the counties, municipalities and school districts.

Commissioner Allan Bense of Panama City called the change a “fair balance” in providing the region with assistance and for members of the Legislature who have questioned the use of Triumph money for the disaster.

“We have a fine line, too,” Bense, a former House speaker, said. “I also don’t want for the rest of Florida to think Triumph is going to take care of Michael, because that’s not our mission.”

Triumph Gulf Coast is responsible for distributing to Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla and Walton counties three-quarters of the money the state will get over the next 12 years through the BP settlement.

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