GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Ken Feinberg says changes underway could make the claims process less challenging for casino workers impacted by the Gulf oil spill.
There's been a growing outcry among the workers who say their industry is being held to a different standard compared to others in the tourism industry.
Feinberg sat down with tourism leaders, including casino executives, Monday afternoon during a closed door meeting in Gulfport.
Beverly Martin, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Casino Operators Association, is ready to see the two changes Feinberg mentioned in the meeting get underway.
"He said he would assign someone to work with the casino and the casino employees," Martin said. "He's also going to bring in extra people in the claims office, live bodies, local people that are familiar with the industry."
The idea is to have clearer communication between the casino industry and Feinberg's group by way of a point person. The point person and workers could also help those filing claims better explain the tie between their loss of income and the oil spill, thereby speeding up the pay out process.
The goal, according to Feinberg, is to make sure casino workers are considered just as fairly as others in the seafood and tourism industry.
"What we have to make sure of is that individuals are treated fairly, consistently," Feinberg said. "I'm here to pay claims, not to deny claims. But they have to be documented and demonstrated damage."
Martin hopes the changes will give claims officers better insight into what to look for when awarding claims for casino workers.
If anything, there is one important accomplishment she said came out of the meeting.
"The one thing I did see is that we did help educate him on the importance of the gaming industry to tourism," Martin said.
Feinberg still expressed the need for documents to be in order.
"I want to make sure the claims are legitimate and on the merits. If they are, I'm obligated to pay them and I will pay them. They will not be left out, nobody will be left out," Feinberg said.
Starting November 23, Feinberg said people can start filing for lump sum payments. But they'll have to sign a waiver saying they will not pursue any further litigation in the matter. For those who choose not to take that option, they can still file to receive payments in three months sums and/or appeal claims they feel were not adequately paid.
To learn more about the claims process, visit http://www.gulfcoastclaimsfacility.com/