When Feinberg first proposed the methodology for interim and final payments he clearly made everyone unhappy. Even BP weighed in with their dislike of his payment system as far too generous, and while their now apparent total disregard for their public relations department can be summarily dismissed, the people who matter here, namely the people injured by this spill, well, they were equally unimpressed. A two week public comment period came with that methodology on February 2nd and over 1400 comments rolled in. Feinberg listened to several of them and made some minor changes. Feinberg also ignored many more and stuck to some of the least popular ideas present in his methodology. Here’s some of the good and some of the bad in the now final rules for interim and final payments from the GCCF.
1. Even if people were denied for an EAP, of which there were hundreds of thousands, they can try again and file for an interim or final payment and unlike the first time round, there are now some guidelines, some indications of what kind of documentation the GCCF is looking for along with how they are making their calculations.
2. Most industries not having a direct connection to the coast are no longer summarily denied. Instead there will be an eligibility test where claimants both direct and indirectly effected will have to show there revenue declined in the eight month post spill period from May through December of 2010 and that decline was more than any similar decline during the years of 2008 and 2009. Also, the decline must be worse than any decline in revenue during the four months of 2010 leading up to the spill on April 20th. For businesses and individuals away from the coast, some of the documentation Feinberg will accept to show losses would be unpaid bills and/or canceled contracts from businesses that operate along the coast.
3. Not only oyster harvesters will now benefit from the special payment scale initially introduced on February 2nd, oyster processors are now included.
4. Feinberg has stated, yet again, that documentation of losses for the oil spill are inadequate, so the GCCF will cover costs for accountants hired to help people with their claims.
1. The no sue clause is still in effect. To receive a quick payment or a final payment, claimants and their families must still sign away their rights to sue BP and a hundred other companies associated with this spill when future recovery of the Gulf is unknown. Interim payments are available for people who don’t want to sign such a clause, but Feinberg has indicated in many press releases and in his own methodology that he believes the Gulf is in full recovery so it is likely that showing damages that will result in payment from Feinberg will become increasingly difficult and may be for naught.
2. The 2012 timetable is still woefully inadequate and Feinberg’s study of Gulf recovery by 2012 is flawed. Jane Lubchenco, head of the NOAA has said as much and new studies, studies not done with BP money are showing that problems are likely to persist well beyond 2012.
3. Gulf sicknesses have not been addressed. Hell, gulf sicknesses are barely being covered by regional press, let alone the national press and if people continue to get sick, there will be no compensation and their families will be awash in medical bills that will either go unpaid, or have to be picked up the state.
4. Mental health issues and any bills contained therein are not covered.
5. Public perception of Gulf seafood is negative and this will strongly impact recovery of the seafood industries.
6. People who suffered property damage while enrolled in the VOO program will not be eligible for reimbursement through the fund.
This list of pro and con is not meant to be exhaustive and there is surely more to be said on both sides of the issue, but when it comes to making things right for the people in the Gulf Coast, this new methodology is not comprehensive. People will continue to suffer. Bills will continue to go unpaid and people will be left out in the cold. It could be argued that no methodology will make everybody happy, a point that even I can concede, but certainly it can be better than this, certainly it can be better than letting British Petroleum know that no matter what happens, you’re only going to have to work on making things whole until 2013, and then the people of the Gulf Coast will be left on their own while Feinberg heads back to New York, without apology and leaving an un-recovered Gulf behind.
Have a nice day.