The administrator of BP Plc's $20 billion compensation fund has paid $43 million to residents of the U.S. Gulf Coast who agree not to sue the company for damages stemming from the nation's worst offshore oil spill.

The spill closed commercial and recreational fishing waters, hurt tourism and shut down deepwater drilling, causing job and income loss for those industries that are critical to the region's livelihood.

Fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg announced a quick pay option on December 13 for those who are satisfied with the emergency compensation they have received from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

In that process, people receive a final lump-sum payment of $5,000 and businesses receive $25,000, and forfeit the right to pursue additional claims against BP.

The quick pay option has come under criticism from lawyers and politicians. In a December 16 statement, the attorneys general of Mississippi and other Gulf Coast states urged people to carefully evaluate any final claim offers from the GCCF, citing the uncertain nature of future damages.

Apart from the quick pay option, residents have the option to file for interim payments and final payments.

To date, the GCCF has paid $2.6 billion in claims to 467,889 claimants. Only one final claim of $10 million has been paid to a business, but most payments have been for emergency compensation for lost earnings and profits.

Feinberg, whose salary BP pays, has hired lawyers from firms in Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana to work in Gulf claims offices and assist residents, the GCCF said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Anna Driver. Editing by Robert MacMillan)
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