Oil Spill Causes Boat Ramp Closures

‘Under review’ and in limbo

By
Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 6:00 am

The Gulf oil spill is continuing to devastate Gulf Coast industries, like the boating industry. (Marianna Day Massey/ZUMA Press)

For more than seven weeks, Jeannie Mathis has been waiting for a check from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the independent entity charged with doling out the money BP set aside to compensate victims of the Gulf oil spill. And for seven weeks, her claim has been “under review.”

[Economy1] Shortly after the oil spill, sales at her Steinhatchee, Fla., nursery, which specializes in selling palm trees to beach-front hotels, plummeted more than 50 percent. Tourists, spooked by the prospect of oil-soaked beaches, stayed away from Florida’s Gulf coast. In turn, hotel owners and other tourism-driven businesses lost money and sacrifices had to be made. As it turns out, one of the first things businesses cut was their landscaping budget.

“The oil spill hit at the heart of our nursery season,” Mathis said. “My clients in Panama City Beach bought eight loads of trees before the spill and they haven’t bought a single load of trees since the spill. They all said things slowed way down because of the oil spill.”

Mathis, who filed more than 300 pages of documentation to prove her claim, says she’s struggling to pay her bills and she’s over-drafted on her bank account. “I’ve had the same bank account since I was 18 years old,” she said. “I shouldn’t be in overdraft. I should have money in the bank.”

Like many others in the Gulf, Mathis says she’s been able to get very little information about her claim. The GCCF has noted no problems with her claim, nor has it asked for more documentation. Every time she calls to check on the status of her claim, she gets the same vague response: “It’s under review.”

“I know that the priorities have to go to the fisherman,” Mathis says. “They have to have help first because they live from one paycheck to the next. But at some point, you have to get to the other people.”

****

As of Oct. 16, there were more than 48,700 claims marked “under review” by the GCCF, according to the latest statistics. Kenneth Feinberg, the independent administrator of the oil spill claims process, has said that the majority of these claims have recently been filed and are being processed, pushing back against suggestions that people have been waiting more than a month for their claims to be reviewed.

But interviews conducted by The Washington Independent with claimants — some who spoke on the record and some who asked not to be named — indicate that at least some claims have been lingering since late August, when Feinberg took over as claims administrator, without a response from the GCCF. They also show that the lines of communication between the claimant and the GCCF are often nonexistent, leaving oil spill victims with little information about when they will receive a decision on their claim.

Amy Weiss, a spokeswoman for Feinberg, said about 8,000 of the 48,700 claims still under review were filed before Oct. 1. “There are only a small number of problematic claims going back to August or September,” she said. Weiss also said the GCCF has not assigned extra staff members to look into claims that have been under review for weeks, though Feinberg has said he is considering hiring staff to answer Gulf residents’ claims questions.

Debra DeShong Reed, another Feinberg spokeswoman, added that most claims filed in August and September that are still under review lack documentation, may be fraudulent or are being reconsidered based on new, less stringent rules Feinberg established in recent weeks.

****

Zade Marcrie, who owns a fishing charter business in Little Sarasota Bay, Fla., says his claim has been under review since Aug. 28. Marcrie, whose business lost money as spill-wary tourists canceled plans for fishing trips, says his interactions with the GCCF were often confusing and counterproductive.

Unclear about Feinberg’s claims protocol, Marcrie initially filed for a final, rather than an emergency claim. (Oil spill victims have until Thanksgiving to file for interim, emergency payments. After Thanksgiving, they have until November 2012 to file for final payments. If claimants accept a final payment, they must agree not to sue BP for further damages.)

It took three weeks to change his claim from a final to an emergency payment. During that time, Marcrie received conflicting information from GCCF staff. Even after reapplying for an emergency payment and being told the GCCF has received his updated paperwork, Marcrie says he still got letters indicating he hadn’t yet filled out the necessary forms.

“It’s obvious the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Marcrie said in an email. “But when you consider how much better off myself and untold numbers of others would be had our claims been handled within a week it’s actually pathetic.”

****

Darlene Gay-Allen, of Mobile, Ala., is about to get evicted from her home. She hasn’t been able to pay the rent since she lost her job as an administrative assistant at a subcontractor that was working with BP to clean up the oil spilled across the Gulf. She was also promised work helping to clean up the spill, and later as a claims administrator at the GCCF. Neither of those jobs panned out, she said, even after she paid for the necessary equipment and a training course.

Gay-Allen’s case is unusual because her losses came as a result of work she was doing to clean up the oil spill. But she says the GCCF has continued to assure her that her claim is under review without giving her specific information about when she can expect a decision.

She filed with the GCCF in late August, days after Feinberg took over the claims process, and says her claim has been under review ever since. “I am to be evicted in a matter of days if I do not come up with the money,” said Gay-Allen, who is surviving on $118 a week in unemployment payments. “I’m 51 years old and I’ve been working since I was 17. I’ve never experienced anything like this.”

Gay-Allen says the GCCF told her that it would expedite her claim because she is facing eviction. But another eviction notice came yesterday, and Gay-Allen says she doesn’t have much time. “I’ve only got a matter days to get out of the house,” she said. “I don’t have the money to move to another place. I don’t have any money to put my stuff in storage.”

****

Andy (he asked that his last name not be used so as not to jeopardize his claim) lost his job as an oil rig engineer in Louisiana after the Obama administration imposed a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling. As his savings dwindled (at one point he couldn’t pay rent or afford groceries), he spent days trying to figure out the status of his claim, only to be given mixed messages from GCCF staff.

After being told he was ineligible for to receive payments under the GCCF, Andy applied for relief under a separate compensation fund for rig workers. He was told by staff at the rig workers fund that he is not eligible because he worked as a contractor. The GCCF then told him that the staff was mistaken, and his claim was reinstated as of Sept. 25. Since then, he’s been told, it remains under review, but the status has not yet been officially changed in the GCCF database.

“So whenever I call the GCCF, the first thing they tell me is that on Sept. 16 I was sent a letter informing me that I was ineligible,” he said. “I then tell them to look further in the notes as the claim was reinstated. So after talking to the person for about 15 minutes or so they will then tell me that my claim is under review and they do not know when it will be further reviewed.”

After struggling with the GCCF for more than a month, Andy is considering giving up. He’s moved to Oklahoma City, Okla., where he’s found work on an onshore oil drilling project. And he’s begun to save some money again.

His only other option, he said, is to hire an attorney, which could cost even more money and result in a lengthy court battle.

“I’d almost rather just drop the claim rather than give 40 percent of what they give me to an attorney,” he said.

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Comments

24 Comments

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Pingback posted October 19, 2010 @ 9:13 am

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Pingback posted October 19, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

[...] 'Under Review' as well as in Limbo « The Washington Independent [...]


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Pingback posted October 20, 2010 @ 3:42 am

[...] Daily – BP claims concerns BBC News Feinberg responds to Sessions WALA-TV FOX10 The Washington Independent -SunHerald.com -WWL First News all 21 news articles » Tags: [...]


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Pingback posted October 21, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

[...] ‘Under Review’ and in Limbo « The Washington Independent [...]


Terry
Comment posted October 22, 2010 @ 6:59 am

I would like to know why certain people are filing claims and receiving checks within 4 days??????? That's what has happened at my place of employment. But others have been waiting weeks. When I was finally able to speak with someone at GCCF, I asked how this was happening and their response was that “every claim is unique”. All I heard was “BLA BLA BLA”. “Under Review” doesn't mean anything to me. It's just a way for them to pacify you.


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Pingback posted October 23, 2010 @ 7:00 am

[...] 'Under Review' as well as in Limbo « The Washington Independent [...]


Bellsmom
Comment posted October 23, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

When someone owns a business, they expect you to have money invested in other areas to use when you hit down-times…unfortunately, the Gulf Coast was still in a recession when this oil disaster hit. Not many businesses had reserves left, so a double whammy. The entire system is broken and it is sad that we are so close to the deadline for the emergency claims window to close and the FINAL claims window to open. GCCF is trying to rush this process and screwing many people and businesses. Remember, everyone has an opportunity to file a claim through the OPA.


Bobmoore1414
Comment posted October 25, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

totally agree of all the employees to file a claim me and one other person are waiting it going on 2 months now for me 1 month for her and yet the average time for claims not including us is about 4 days and 45 people have filed so something isnt right.


Aggrevated
Comment posted November 10, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

I lost my job this summer because of the BP oil spill and cannot find another one. My claim was under review for the longest time. I sent many emails which were ignored. I also called many times. If I was able to reach a live person, they never knew anything about what was going on. Other times I left my name and number. Of course, no return phone call.
Then I learn people at local restaurant and fast food chains are getting payments within a week. Massage therapist, hair dressers, dry cleaners, convenient store clerks all receiving fast and generous payments. Now, months later, I learn that my claim is denied. GCCF claims that I have not suffered any damages. HELLO, I lost my job and cannot find another one. HELLO, what do you mean that I haven't suffered any damages?!
Feinberg's firm is racking in $850,000 a month from BP to deny people with legitimate claims. We all now that $850,000 a month just is not enough money to hire a few extra people to ensure the claims are handled fairly and promptly.
QUESTION–Does Feinberg get to keep whatever money is in the fund after denying all these claims? Does he get a huge bonus from BP for denying these claims? At least Kenneth Feinberg doesn't have to worry about how he will pay for food. I am sure Mr Feinberg will enjoy a nice Thanksgiving Dinner while some of us that he denied will be lucky to dine on mac n cheese. Its disgusting!


Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Blog Gulf Coast Claims Facility Blazer Bay Boats | Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Blog
Pingback posted November 11, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

[...] I continue to receive emails from Gulf Coast residents who are battling with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility for compensation for their oil spill losses. Lonnie Craft, the vice president of a boat manufacturing company in Pensacola, Fla, has been waiting since Aug. 23, more than two months after filing a claim, and still has no answer from the GCCF. Craft is one of an unknown number of claimants whose claims have been “under review” since the day the GCCF opened its doors. (I wrote about the issue here). [...]


OPISO » Some Gulf Spill Claimants Waiting for Months: Feinberg Blames Tricky Policy Decisions
Pingback posted November 16, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

[...] program does not provide statistics on how long claimants have been waiting. But ProPublica and the Washington Independent have both spoken to numerous claimants who say their applications have been in limbo for over a [...]


D pope
Comment posted November 19, 2010 @ 6:09 am

i work in the gaming industry on the MS gulf coast and fineberg denied every casino claim across the board, nov. 15th, after he met with tourism and casino operators one week before and promises to review all denied claims, put a liason to deal with casino employee claims, and replace claim center reps with locals who could relate to local claims. fineberg, your a liar and should be fired.


amy sullivan
Comment posted November 19, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

This is nonsense, there are plenty of people that are still in need of claim money, but all you get is “blah blah bah” when you call or go to a GCCF claim center! But you have a lot of people that turn in minimal paper work to prove lost wages and the business is nowhere near the beach or tourism and they get paid within a week….Feinburg, explain that!! Then he denies all casino employees because we work at a “casino”. There were a hand full of lucky employees that filed under their casino hotel’s name and got paid. Which means there are other employees that work next to the people that were paid but got denied due to filing their claim under “casino”!!! Feinburg came to MS for a meeting and agreed to a Liaison for casinos and that didnt happen…..FIRE FIENBURG, FIRE HIM NOW!!


Reggie
Comment posted November 20, 2010 @ 1:42 am

Feinburg just needs to be FIRED and get on with getting someone in there that will do the JOB!! I don’t understand how the same two people can do the same job and one gets paid and the other doesn’t!!! How much more can the people of the gulf coast handle, we were on our way to such a great summer and now it’s turned out to be just as bad a year as when Hurricane Katrina came through and tore our lives apart!!! Can anyone say FEMA and the fed goverment again!!! WHY is it that the gulf is always the one that gets the raw deal!!!


Jamie
Comment posted November 20, 2010 @ 5:21 am

Its been over a month since i filed my claim. when i filed i brought every single pay check stub from the year. w2s for 08 and 09 tax forms for 08 and 09 drivers license and social security and hand wrote a hardship letter. it stayed under review for weeks before switching to “needing additional documentation” when i called the help line they said i wasnt missng anything that i had all required documentation to process my claim. i went down to the claims facility and they said wait 7 to 10 more days. well it then switched back to under review. .. well about 9 days ago a man called me saying he worked with the GCCF and he wanted to come to my home to speak with me about my claim. so i allowed him. He was an investigator supposivly hired by the GCCF to come and clarify my documentation and residence. after leaving my job they went to my job to make sure i worked there. i called the help line and they have nothing in my file saying that investigators were sent out. it’s been a month and a half since i filed. I am about to lose everything and everyone else i work with minus one person… has been paid.. even people that didnt work whree i work during the oil spill have gotten up to 10,000. They just keep saying call back in 2 to 3 days.. i dont have that much time i have 3 small kids and being unemployed with no hope that i will get paid my money for my loss wages is very heart breaking.. I dont know what to do


Tens of Thousands of Gulf Spill Claimants STILL Waiting for Compensation While Gov’t Officials Make Excuses | Rise of the Center
Pingback posted November 20, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

[...] program does not provide statistics on how long claimants have been waiting. But ProPublica and the Washington Independent have both spoken to numerous claimants who say their applications have been in limbo for over a [...]


Tshell_26
Comment posted November 22, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

I agree something is definitely not right. My sister and I filed the same day on Nov.4th, and she she received payment on 11/19th and I’m still under review. I’m in the process of contacting a lawyer.


GULF OIL SPILL « PEGADA – AMBIENTAL ECOLÓGICA CULTURAL
Pingback posted November 23, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

[...] program does not provide statistics on how long claimants have been waiting. But ProPublica and the Washington Independent [2] have both spoken to numerous claimants who say their applications have been in limbo for over a [...]


Nawlinsred
Comment posted November 23, 2010 @ 8:48 pm

Its been over a month since I filed my claim. when I filed I copied every single pay check stub from the year 2010, W2s for 08 and 09, drivers license and social security and wrote a hardship letter. It has stayed under review since about 4 days after I filed. Nothing has changed and I have not received any letters or been contacted for more information. When I call all they can say is it is being reviewed. A lady I worked with that is still employed at the company where I was laid off from just received a check for $5,000.00…this is crazy! I have been out of work since June. I do oil & gas related procurement and can not find a job!! This is so frustrating…………..


  ‘Under Review’ and in Limbo – The Washington Independent by Thanksgiving Day Parade Site
Pingback posted November 27, 2010 @ 8:33 am

[...] The Washington Independent [...]


Pcolahotredhead
Comment posted December 11, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

I filed Oct 25 and still under review….today is Dec 11th…bunch of BS.


Joeshmoe
Comment posted December 13, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

The crazy thing is I know people who do Masonry work that have no connection to the oil spill and one guy got $60,000 and another got $48,000. There was nothing fraud about it they told the claims people that is was because people didn’t want to build on our beautiful gulf coast anymore. What a croc.


Some Gulf Spill Claimants Waiting for Months: Feinberg Blames Tricky Policy Decisions | SkyTitles
Pingback posted December 27, 2010 @ 2:20 am

[...] program does not provide statistics on how long claimants have been waiting. But ProPublica and the Washington Independent have both spoken to numerous claimants who say their applications have been in limbo for over a [...]


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