Fishermen call Feinberg's quick pay offer "hush money"

ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

ST MARTIN, MS (WLOX) - Angry and frustrated fishermen held a protest Tuesday morning outside a BP claims center. They say their oil spill claims have been denied or underpaid, despite them providing the required documentation to verify the losses.

The fishermen say they'll continue speaking out until they receive fair treatment.

"They give us chump change. We ain't welfare people. We're people who work the Gulf of Mexico and we love what we do," shouted protest organizer, James "Catfish" Miller.

What Miller and his fellow fishermen don't like is the way they've been treated by the oil spill claims process.

"Yeah, I filed a claim, but I've been denied my claim," said one.

"I was paid about ten percent of my loss," said Mark Stuart.

"Jump through all the hoops they want you to jump through and it's not enough," said Eddie Rhodes.

"Been fishing all my life. Got two boats. Been denied," added Rudy Toler.

Their individual stories are remarkably similar. Third and fourth generation fishermen say their oil spill claims are either denied or greatly underpaid.

George Boyd has been fishing  since the 1970s.

"I've tried to figure out how they came up with $5300 for me and my family. For six months? That's less than a thousand dollars a month. That's nowhere near what I deserve to get for six months," he said.

"They say I don't have enough documents for my claim. But I turned in all the documents they require. It ain't doing me a bit of good," said Duane Lehman.

Judy Lesso carried a sign and shared her frustrations.

"I've been a fisherman all my life. I own boats. I got a letter two weeks ago saying I was denied. I don't know why and nobody tells me why. Nobody knows nothing," she said.

As for the so-called "quick pay" option just announced by Kenneth Feinberg, these fishermen call that a joke.  They say it's a ploy.

One fisherman describes it as "hush money."

"Taking advantage of people who don't have any money for Christmas. Trying to get them to settle out. And that's not a fair settlement at all," said Stuart.

The fishermen say they won't settle for anything less than fair compensation for legitimate losses.

"I got a funny feeling that they're denying a lot of folks just to see how many people will fight," said Lehman, "I'm going to fight until I can't fight it no more."

"What does a baby do when they're hungry?" asked Edward Ross, "They cry. And we're going to cry."

The protest took place outside the Gulf Coast Claims Facility on Lemoyne Boulevard.

A spokesman inside the office told WLOX News they could not comment about any of the individual cases or the concerns voiced by fishermen.

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