BAY ST LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - The new man in charge of BP's $20 billion claims fund said Monday the final decisions about who gets money are all his.
Ken Feinberg, the independent administrator appointed by the government, began his first official day on the job here in Mississippi. He held the first of three town meetings in Bay St. Louis Monday morning explaining who is eligible to claim an economic loss from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Kenneth Feinberg made it clear to the 150 plus people who turned for his first public meeting that today was "a new day" as far as the oil spill claims process goes.
"I don't care what BP did; I'm in charge now," Feinberg said. "What if BP denied your claim? Or it went into the ether and you never even heard from BP? I don't care if BP denied your claim, file it again. I may find you eligible. It's a new day today."
Under his leadership, Feinberg said claims will be processed and paid faster. Checks will be cut within
48 hours, in some emergency cases.
"You have until November 23rd to seek up to six months of emergency payments with no waiver by you of any rights."
He said waivers, signing away rights to sue BP, will come when final payments are made to settle a total claim.
"Three factors determine eligibility: How close you are to the Gulf. How dependent your business is on the Gulf, beach, fish, shrimp, oysters, sightseeing tourism."
There were several questions from the audience that dealt with real estate claims.
"If you have your house on the market and it was worth $800,000 and now it's worth $500,000 and you still own that home, you still have equity in the house. Now if our house is on the market and you sell the house for a loss, that's different. But as long as you've got the house and you have equity in that house, there's no claim. Or I used to rent my home or my condo for $800 a month, a thousand dollars a month. And post-spill, I've either rented it less than that or can't even rent it. That's compensable. That's lost income."
Others wanted to know if there's a limit to how much a claim can be. The answer: No.
Feinberg ended the meeting with a promise.
"I will be back. I can't do this job from Washington. You've got to come down here and hear these questions and try to resolve these questions."
Feinberg made it clear if you've filled out claims paperwork with BP, that paperwork will be transferred to his offices. But he emphasized everyone will be required to fill out a new claims form with one of his offices.
There are three claims offices on the coast. In St. Martin, the office is on Lemoyne Boulevard in the old Sicily's shopping center. In Pascagoula, it's on Old Mobile Highway, just off Industrial Road. And in Bay St. Louis, the claims office is on Highway 90, east of the post office.