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David Hammer / Eyewitness News
Email: dhammer@wwltv.com | Twitter: @davidhammerWWL

More than $1 billion has been paid for BP oil spill economic damages through a class-action settlement.

The court-appointed claims administrator, Lafayette attorney Patrick Juneau, announced that his claims facility had surpassed the billion-dollar threshold in a year-end report.

'This has been a monumental process,' Juneau said. 'Not only have we paid over $1 billion since we established the process on June 4, 2012, but we have also determined there are $1.556 billion in eligible claims thus far.'

That means Juneau is in the process of paying another $500 million in claims he's already OK'd. And his staff paid yet another $400 million in the spring of 2012 as a part of the transition from the previous claims czar, Kenneth Feinberg.

But there's still a long way to go in the payment process. There have been 97,000 claims filed so far, and BP has estimated it will pay claimants about $7.8 billion through the settlement process. Most people have until April 22, 2014 (four years after the Deepwater Horizon rig sank), to file a claim, but the deadline is almost here for the most directly affected group of claimants: fishermen and other seafood leaseholders and harvesters.

There is a fixed, $2.3 billion seafood settlement and the deadline to file a claim for that money is Jan. 22, less than two weeks from now.

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