So Feinberg comes down to the Gulf Coast to speak to residents and explain the three options available to people filing claims and is now halfway through his meetings, held in Moss Point, Bay St. Louis and Grand Isle…and what happens?
Well, what did you think would happen?
In Moss Point:
John Fraleigh of Kiln, Miss said he is barely hanging on. He’s a month late on his mortgage and two months behind in his car payment. He owns an industrial erosion control business and a marine products company. Both businesses have tanked since the spill, down 95 percent. He lost one contract worth about $300,000 dollars because the job was cancelled after the spill. The GCCF denied him. “I haven’t gotten a dime,” Fraleigh said, “I’m out of time here.”
In Bay St. Louis:
“They pay my son, and turned me down. We fish on the same boat with the same license,” said one person at the meeting.
“My 11-year-old child has tested positive for the chemicals from the oil. Who is going to see him?” said another person at the meeting.
“I got 62 pages of documentation. 62 pages,” said one angry man. “Everything y’all asked for I provided. Y’all say 30 to 90 days away for a minimum claim to be paid for? What is my family supposed to do until then?”
In Grand Isle:
Another fisher, Michael Frazier of Grand Isle, said he has received a single payment for $5,800. “I made more money in the first two days of last year’s shrimp season than I got for my six-month settlement,” Frazier said.
What it would appear Feinberg fails to realize is the problem in the Gulf Coast is not that people don’t understand the three options: quick payments, interim payments and final payments, the problem is that the GCCF is a broken system. As tar balls continue to wash up in Grand Isle and nobody knows the future of the fishing industry, the tourism industry and every other industry that depends on those soiled waters of the Gulf, to make people choose not to sue BP, to accept quick payments or whatever payments applies a lot of pressure to a people who are given few answers. And in the midst of this pressure, to have chosen a payment option from the depths of financial straits only to feel lied to, delayed, obstructed by the GCCF, the very organization that is supposed to provide these payments makes an intolerable situation far, far worse.
Take the interim payment as an example of the pressures being faced :
This is the plan Feinberg continues to emphasize to people who question the effectiveness of the clean-up and the government promises that all is a-ok with the fishing industry. Feinberg states that people don’t have to waive the right to sue BP to get the interim payment, a check every three months up through 2013, as long as you can continue to prove losses as a result of the spill. Whereas this might sound reasonable, when one listens to the horror stories about the dealings with the GCCF, the denials, the endless struggles with red tape while trying to keep creditors at bay, and then Feinberg, the neutral arbitrator is quoted in USA today back on Dec 22nd as saying “”We’re asking everybody right now, scientists, biologists, give us your best estimate … of the status of the Gulf,” Feinberg said. “We’re hearing right now, not much long-term adverse impact.”
So, if the arbitrator says interim payments are a way to keep getting paid without waiving the right to sue, and then says, but you will have to prove damages…while at the same time saying he thinks the Gulf is shaping up just fine. What message does that send to someone considering this option? Especially, when considering people who can show damages now, and prove it with paperwork, some of them are being denied anyway.
In Moss Point, Feinberg said, “I understand there’s a lot of anger and frustration…I’m doing my best.”
Not good enough.
In Bay St. Louis, Feinberg said, “I have to come back here and face the music, you cannot simply ignore people like this.”
Listening to people yell at you during a meeting and then moving on without changing anything doesn’t mean you haven’t ignored them.
In Grand Isle, Feinberg said, “”I’m trying to do the right thing…this is an unprecedented job. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of claims. But we’re getting through them, and the money is going out.”
That would depend on who you ask, Ken.
Feinberg stated he would be making some changes to the payment system and all those changes would have the opportunity to be reviewed by local officials before being implemented. He also said that final payments will begin being reviewed on Feb 1st. What isn’t abundantly clear is whether the people who have applied and are waiting for their final payment already, will have to wait ninety days for their payment from when it was received, or from February 1st, when they begin being reviewed.
Karen Hopkins, a Grand Isle resident and seafood worker, handed Feinberg an online petition calling for his resignation, “We don’t feel like you have given us choices,” she said. “What you have presented to us are ultimatums.”
Very true, Karen and well said…here’s the petition:
Have a nice day.