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The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Another story of frustration and waiting in the Gulf

I just received a long email from a woman named Theresa Goins, from Bon Secour, Ala. Her fiance, James Martin, has been waiting to receive compensation from the

Katharine Tate
News
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Nov 11, 2010

I just received a long email from a woman named Theresa Goins, from Bon Secour, Ala. Her fiance, James Martin, has been waiting to receive compensation from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility for months. A commercial fisherman, Martin sustained himself after the oil spill by working for the Vessels of Opportunity program (VoO), which paid fishermen who couldn’t fish because of the spill to use their boats to assist in the cleanup.

Now that the VoO program has ended, Martin still struggles to get by as fishing has not yet resumed in the area of the Gulf where he fishes. Here is his story as told by his fiance. I’ve edited it for clarity.

To start at the beginning, my fiance, James Martin, is a commercial fisherman. He owns and operates his own boat. At the time of the explosion he was fishing 36 miles from the Deepwater Horizon rig. He fished until the government closed everything, trying to keep making a living. He did not file a claim with BP until he HAD to, and had the hardest time getting his claim approved. He brought in every piece of paper they wanted to prove who he is and that he is a commercial fisherman. They finally gave him a check, but it was nothing compared to what he would have made if he had still been able to fish (and he only got 2 checks from BP).

When the VoO program was implemented, he took the [training] classes, got certified and got his boat to start working for clean up. At first he was just another boat trying to work, next he was made a strike team leader. This put him kinda like a supervisor with a few smaller boats under him. Then he became task force leader, with bigger boats under him. They did this because he knows these waters here in the river, the bay and also the Gulf. The VoO program paid him on time without question as long as he turned in his invoices. Now that the VoO program has been dismantled, you would think that BP would at least pick up sending him the monthly check again. But no, he hasn’t had a check since September.

After Feinberg took over, all of his paperwork was sent to Ohio, and he had to refile (8/23). We started online but it was too confusing since it is a business claim so we took it to the local GCCF office and let the agent in the office [fill out] the booklet. The booklet was complete, no pages torn out, but two weeks later we check into what is taking so long and the person at the GCCF 800-number said we didn’t send pages 2, 3,and 11.  (they lost this, not us) so we go back in to the office, complete another booklet, overnight it and wait another week.

He gets told one time it’s “under review” and should receive a check soon. Another 10 days go by, he calls again, they say they don’t have proof he is a commercial fisherman (they lost it). So we send them the documentation on the boat, his commercial hook and line license, and his reef permit.

It is now going on nine weeks since we filed his claim, we are about to lose both trucks on Friday (had to pawn titles to have money to live off of while waiting on this check). Our power will be turned off on Nov. 18 and we will be getting an eviction notice in December. His claim status online states “additional documentation needed.” What more do they need from him? They have everything, so why hasn’t he gotten even the first emergency payment?? What constitutes an emergency with those people??

He still can’t go fishing because the waters he fishes in are still closed. Someone has to do something. These communities and these people down here in southern Alabama deserve better treatment. This is our livelihood. All the fishermen and their families have been counting on BP and Feinberg to help us out, but we are the forgotten ones.

We have watched as people here that have lost nothing and have had nothing to do with fishing get checks. A friend who works in a credit union in Pensacola, Fla., had a girl come in with an $80,000 check. She told the clerk that she works at Cookies and Cream (a strip bar) and said she filed for loss of business. What? What?  Loss of business…a stripper?  Give me a break.

Also, I personally know of a man that filed as a captain of a commercial fishing boat (three trips as captain). He only fished from November until April and so far has gotten well over $100,000. A cook at the restaurant down the road from here got $40,000, and the dishwasher there got $20,000.  It is extremely frustrating and I’m not sure what will happen once we lose everything. He can’t take much more, this is gonna cause him to have a heart attack.?

Katharine Tate | I’m a native of Massachusetts, where I earned bachelor's degrees in Health: Science, Society, and Policy and Sculpture from Brandeis University. I enjoy assisting and inspiring women in all aspects of their lives, and I consider myself a partner in their OB an GYN treatment. I particularly enjoy forming relationships with young women and assisting them in determining their healthcare needs and goals. I love to travel, create metal and fiber art, cook, and spend time outside. Also, I’m fluent in both German and American Sign Language.

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