Gulf Coast Claims Facility Plans To Be More Generous with Payments to ShrimpersBy Rhonda Miller | Published 31 Oct 2011 10:37pm |
Even as BP is reporting substantial third-quarter profits and just got approval to drill a new well in the Gulf, hundreds of people in South Mississippi are still waiting for claims to be paid for losses caused by last year’s oil spill. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports on changes that could mean relief for Gulf Coast residents affected by the disaster.
On the dock at Pass Christian harbor, fisheman T.J. Hinton says it’s been tough to earn a living since the BP oil spill. He went nearly a year without shrimping and without an income. Meanwhie, he presented his documentation to BP’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
"When I got the offer for the $25,000 blanket payoff, I didn’t want to take it," Hinton says. "So I waited until all my money was used up to try to prolong the period they would have to actually review my case, instead of just giving me some hush money."
Even though Hinton says the $25,000 payment is a fraction of his business loss over several years, he has a home and two children to support, and he just couldn’t wait any longer.
"The day I went to sign the paperwork, I put my last five dollars in the gas tank to drive down to the claims facility," Hinton says.
But hundreds of Gulf Coast residents are waiting for a resolution on their claims. And now it looks like the situation will improve. A few days ago Gulf Coast Claims Facility Administrator Kenneth Feinberg told a Congressional committee on natural resources he’s having second thoughts.
"I think we’ve got to do better by the shrimpers," says Feinberg. "We’re now reviewing ways to make the program more generous for the shrimping industry in Louisiana."
Even though Feinberg mentioned Louisiana, attorney John Jopling of the Mississippi Center for Justice in Biloxi says changes expected in a few weeks will likely benefit everyone on the Gulf Coast who has a claim pending.
"In this case, justice delayed is justice denied, in the sense that if you’ve suffered a severe economic loss, you really need that compensation to keep your family and your household on its feet," says Jopling.
The Center for Justice is providing free legal assistance to nearly 1,000 Mississippi residents who have claims with BP.
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