“The GCCF takes into account evidence of the connection between the asserted loss and the spill, the nature of the claimant’s job or business, and the extent to which the claimant’s job or business is dependent upon injured property or natural resources,” the letter stated. “In weighing these factors, the GCCF has determined that you did not demonstrate that you lost profits or income as a direct result of the spill.”
This is the letter received from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility by Candi Cook, a business owner from Naples Florida. The criteria used to deny her claim was not explained. She wasn’t told what extra information they might need or where exactly her claim went wrong. What she does know is she’s two months behind on her rent and in debt with vendors. She know she initially filed for a claim in June for her losses in May and June and received a $2100 dollar check from BP, but after she submitted paperwork and supporting evidence for an emergency advance payment claim loss of $24,000 over the past six months to Feinberg’s GCCF, she got nothing.
Finally, she knows that in order to save her retail business, “Candi’s Creative Crafts” in Tin City Florida, she has to sell her house, live in her truck or with friends and at least temporarily, her 16 year old son is going to live with his grandmother in North Florida.
The story of Candi Cook made it to small press yesterday, largely ignored.
Splashed across the major papers, including the New Orleans Times-Picayune however, is another story about the seven people the Justice Department is investigating for fraudulent claims. Of the 460,000 claims submitted in the Gulf, Ken Feinberg estimates 2-3000 of them are suspiciously fraudulent and being sent to the Justice Department for investigation where Federal prosecuters, the FBI, the US Secret Service and the US Postal Inspection Service are cooperating to nail these people for disaster fraud.
“The charges…send a strong message that we will not tolerate any fraudulent activity designed to profit from this tragic oil spill,” said Assistant US Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
And whereas the seven people the Feds are currently going after will make news across the country, this isn’t the real story.
The real story here are the people like Candi Cook who are desperately trying to keep their businesses and themselves going but finding it difficult, near impossible to do so with Feinberg and the GCCF running this show. 220,000 claims denied by his crew, Candi Cook and her shop being one of them, most for poor documentation yet it only stands to reason that if someone were to own a shop geared towards selling nick-nacks to tourists in Tin City Florida, and because of the oil spill the tourists don’t come to your town, your shop is going to be in trouble.
“I’m not seeking handouts,” Cook said, “I just want my business to survive…I just want someone to tell me why I was denied.”
The Justice Department has suggested to Feinberg that he explain his protocol for denials. Feinberg has said he is considering it. Why only consider? Why did he not do this months ago? Perhaps if the criminal fraud division turned their sights on Feinberg for his law firm’s profiting of this oil spill, he might do more then consider, perhaps he might explain why BP told Candi Cook “yes” and sent her a check while the GCCF told her “no,” only sending a letter. Perhaps if the protocols were transparent, people like her might have a better understanding of why the denial came, and what they might do to rectify their situations.
“I’m at my wit’s end,” Cook said.
And she is not alone, there are over 200,000 people and businesses denied, many of them just like her.
That’s the story.
Have a nice day.