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Florida Daily Investigations: Florida BP/Deepwater Horizon Trust Fund Not Meeting Expectations

A new feature entitled “Florida Daily Investigations” will focus on government projects that come into question dealing with government funds, spending and other items.

The first part of the series will focus on the Florida Triumph Fund. This nonprofit corporation was founded due to a settlement from the 2010 BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

According to the agreement, $1.5 billion will be given to eight coastal counties in Northwest Florida to help out with financial aid through economic development grant funds over the next 18 years. The fund will be administered to Bay, Gulf, Franklin, Wakulla, Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties.

Triumph Gulf Coast Inc., which oversees the fund says its mission is to allocate the money for the recovery, diversification and enhancement of the local counties that were “disproportionately affected” by the spill. The first BP payment of $400 million was made in 2016 and 75 percent –$300 million–went to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc.

Each of the eight counties is supposed to receive a minimum allocation of at least 5 percent–or $15 million–from the initial $300 million to be used for projects. However, Florida Daily found that isn’t the case. The process of allocating the money to certain counties is moving slowly and not every county is getting their fair share of the settlement agreement.

According to the meeting dates of the Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. Board are shown on the RESTORE Act calendar, here is a list of funds that have been disbursed to the eight counties:

Escambia–$114 million
Santa Rosa–$38 million
Okaloosa–$98.7 million
Walton—$10.95 million
Bay–$84 million
Gulf– $30 million
Franklin– $12.6 million
Wakulla- -$40.2 million.

Florida statutes demand that at least 40 percent of the funds transferred to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., must be allocated equally among the eight disproportionately affected counties based on a minimum allocation of at least 5 percent per county and, for each transfer of funds to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., at least 32 percent of the funds must be allocated equally among the eight disproportionately affected counties based on a minimum allocation of at least 4 percent per county.

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Just one problem, Florida Daily found that not all of the counties were receiving the funds proportionately according to state statutes. Some counties with smaller revenues were receiving a much larger portion of the funds compared to counties that have larger revenues. All of this raises questions about whether the funds are being properly and equally disbursed.

“Each board of county commissioners shall solicit proposed projects and programs from other elected local governing boards within the county and shall provide Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., with a list of proposed projects and programs located within its county. The submitted list of proposed projects and programs must include projects and programs submitted by other elected local governing boards and projects and programs recommended by the board of county commissioners,” stated the Triumph board.

But not all the groups applying for funds are governmental. Applicants include nonprofits and private firms though the Triumph board makes the final decisions.

The language the Triumph board uses to approve projects can come off a little over the top. Approved projects have been described as “transformational”, “economic diversification,” “infrastructure,” and “sustainable.”

The board has made claims that the proper distribution of the funds properly will create more than 16,000 net new jobs but has not provided a time frame of when those jobs will be created.

The Triumph board has also boasted about not slowing down when it comes to making investments for Northwest Florida. But, at a recent Triumph board meeting, participants admitted that their application process is “cumbersome” and said too much red tape was involved.

Over the next several weeks, Florida Daily will be following up on the investigation of the Triumph fund.

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Ed Dean: Publisher

 

Ed Dean is a leading radio and news media personality including hosting the #1 statewide radio talk show in Florida. Contact Ed.Dean@FloridaDaily.com

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