Time is running out for people trying to get money from BP for damage caused by the company’s oil spill. Ken Fienberg, the man in charge of paying claims, was in Tallahassee Thursday to discuss a log jam of claims and warn people of the looming November 23rd deadline. After the deadline people will be asked to accept a lump sum payment and wave their right to sue or prepare for a court battle.
Under fire for a backlog of claims, Ken Feinberg, the man in charge of a 20 billion dollar BP fund, says he expects criticism. “I have a thick skin and a backbone.”
For the next three hours members of Florida Oil Spill task force peppered the claims czar with questions and critiques. Bill Stewart of the Attorney General’s commented, “For every one customer who is happy you have two that are unhappy.”
Bob Zales, a Panama City Charter Boat Captain had more criticism. “When people weren’t going to have records you said get a captain’s letter or even go to a priest. Apparently that’s not working.”
300 thousand claims have been filed. Two in three haven’t been paid. Feinberg says many of them lack documentation. “This is a real problem no way to know how much they made.”
Feinberg says a flood of claims flowing in since October 1st has bogged down the system. He questions the validity of some of the new claims as the deadline to file approaches.
Floridians have until November 23rd to file an emergency claim. After that claimants will be asked to accept a lump sum payment and agree not to sue BP. Claimants will have three years to make up their minds, but experts say the effects of the oil spill on the fishing industry may not be realized for decades.
Feinberg says it’s a decision every fisherman will have to examine closely. “I’ll do the best I can in calculating long term damage and leave it up to each claimant to decide whether or not to take that check.”
But lump sum payments are the furthest thing from some people’s minds, because some Floridians who suffered financial damage still haven’t received a dime from BP.
To help with the backlog of claims, Feinberg plans to hire Floridians to handle Florida cases, put more information on the internet, and give claimants a case manager so they don’t have to deal with a different person every time they call.