By South Florida Business Journal

BP said today it has paid out $256 million so far in claims to those who have lost income or net profits as a result of the Gulf oil spill.

The British oil giant said it expects it will pay at least another $60 million in advance payments next month.

"Our focus has been and remains on getting money into the hands of people who need it to pay their living expenses," said Darryl Willis of BP's claims team, in a news release. "This advance payment program recognizes the importance of replacing income that has been lost."

Those receiving payments include: fisherman ($39 million), shrimpers ($23 million), oyster harvesters ($8 million) and charter boat owners ($6 million). More than $117 million has gone to individuals and businesses in a variety of occupations including those who work as deck hands and in seafood processing.

BP began issuing interim advance payments in May. Since then, it has received 133,000 claims and has issued more than 83,000 checks, it said.

As of July 19, BP said it has spent $3.95 billion on spill response, containment efforts, relief well drilling, grants to Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs.

Deepwater Horizon has not discharged any oil into the Gulf since the company successfully capped the well on July 15. The company said on Wednesday that one of its drilling rigs successfully removed a storm plug that was placed on a relief well last week as Tropical Storm Bonnie threatened.

Itâ¿¿s now been 100 days since the accident that claimed 11 lives. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the oil plume is 60 miles from Pensacola and 140 miles from Panama City, and there have been sporadic tar balls coming ashore.

⿿Approximately 640 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline is currently oiled: 100 miles in Florida, 362 miles in Louisiana, 108 miles in Mississippi and 70 miles in Alabama,⿝ according to the latest update from the Florida governor⿿s office.

Meantime, the University of Florida released a survey on Wednesday that suggests the oil spill has created ⿿a cloud of uncertainty⿝ that is affecting markets not just in the Panhandle, but in all of Florida.

Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals

Copyright 2010