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Some Oil Spill Victims Have Yet to Receive Compensation, Even After Claims Were ‘Escalated’

ProPublica just posted a good story on Gulf oil spill victims who are still waiting to receive compensation for their losses, even after being told by Gulf Coast Claims Facility staff that their claim had been expedited, or “escalated.”

I reported the same thing last week, highlighting the story of Nicole Bolano, a Gulf Coast resident who was told twice that her claim had been escalated, only to continue waiting for payment (ProPublica referred to my item in its story). A handful of other claimants have told me similar stories.

Here’s one powerful example from ProPublica’s story today:

Nick Athens, who filed a claim for lost income from vacation rentals in Destin and Pensacola Beach, Fla., said that he has fallen behind on the mortgage payments for vacation rental properties he owns. In previous years, he used rental income from the spring and summer to cover the mortgage for the rest of year, but this year rentals dropped off following the spill.

Athens has received one check for a fraction of his claim on one property, but the majority of his claim is still pending. He said his case was escalated on Sept. 28 and that he was told he could expect a decision within a week.

On Oct. 7, he had not yet received a response, and he e-mailed Feinberg’s operation to try to speed up the process. “I have until October 16 to make the mortgage payment, after which I risk damage to my credit rating for late payments and possibly going into foreclosure,” Athens wrote.

His claim has still not received a response. “It’s just incredibly, incredibly frustrating,” Athens said.

Kenneth Feinberg, the independent administrator of the GCCF, told ProPublica that escalated claims are “immediately prioritized.” But ProPublica notes, “Feinberg has never promised a specific timeframe for deciding on escalated claims, and he said that the amount of time needed for a decision depends on the contents of the application.”

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