GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Gulf Coast Claims Facility is the official outlet for individuals and businesses to file claims for costs and damages as a result of the BP oil spill.
Kenneth Feinberg is the administrator for the GCCF and is responsible for all decisions relating to the administration and processing of claims submitted to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
Many individuals and businesses along the Mississippi Gulf Coast continue to wait for final payments. Some individuals believe the GCCF is using delay tactics in sending out checks.
At the Pass Christian Harbor, just like harbors across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, oyster dredging is no longer allowed since the oil spill. They must now use 14-foot-long wooden poles with a rake like scoop, known as tongs to haul in the oysters.
The oyster harvesters we talked with told us that GCCF case workers have no idea what they are doing when it comes to the seafood industry.
An oysterman talked with WLOX on one condition, anonymity.
"I think Feinberg and his whole crew need to be cut out of the picture and somebody more qualified should handle the money, plain and simple," the oysterman said. "BP done us great; we never had any problems. When it got turned over to GCCF, since then, nobody has collected much of anything. I got one check for six months for lost wages, that was nine months ago. They have lost all my paperwork. I've got to start from scratch again."
The fishermen we talked with say their lives have been turned upside down, and they are having trouble making ends meet. Instead of bringing 20 to 25 sacks a day to the dock, the oystermen are limited to 10 sacks a day. Oyster harvesters say at this dock, before the oil spill, they would bring in 3,000 sacks a day through dredging.
"We normally start in September. This year we started in the middle of November. So that's the time we normally stock money. We're seasonal. We only get a certain of months a year, and that plus the limit being a third of what it normally is has just crippled us," the oysterman said.
The Gulf Coast Claims Facility recently put out a notice to claimants seeking payment for interim and Final Claims, which stated:
"The GCCF encourages these claimants to provide the requested documentation as expeditiously as possible so that the evaluation of these claims can be completed."
Justin Roland owns the Tackle Box bait shop in the Long Beach Harbor and said he has filled out the required documentation not once but three times and wants to know why the hold up on his final payment.
"I've submitted everything above and beyond what they have asked, in great detail," Roland said.
To add more confusion, Roland said when he went to the Biloxi claims office, he was told that his file was being sent to Hammond, Louisiana.
"So we asked if we could go there, and they said that site was unavailable to us. So we went back to the office in Biloxi, then the office in Biloxi had moved," Roland said. "It's been a lot of confusion as far as, has it even been received, processed?"
Most of the claimants we spoke with told us they feel like the GCCF is using a delaying tactic in paying out damages.
"There's no real explanation. It's always kind of just beating around the bush. We're waiting for it to be processed," Roland said.
Roland also owned a bait shop in Gulfport, which he said was highly successful, was being the key word.
"My Gulfport store is closed as a result of the oil leak."
He said April through October is normally the busiest time of the season, and the money that he takes in during those months allows him to stay open year round.
Roland said he did receive money from BP, but once Feinberg took over, he hasn't seen a dime.
"I would dare to say I haven't been paid ten percent of what we should be compensated for," Roland said. "And honestly we're not looking for anything above and beyond of what I would have made."
AJ Giardina contacted the GCCF and asked them to answer these questions:
- Is the GCCF using a delay tactic by losing the claimants paperwork?
- Are the people reviewing the cases irresponsible or incompetent?
GCCF spokesperson Amy Weiss responded saying:
"The GCCF has paid or is in the process of paying every single legitimate individual and business claim where the claimant can document economic loss due to the oil spill. All the documentation provided by claimants to the GCCF are processed and kept confidential. We are not aware of any documents being lost. There have been cases where claimants have been asked to provide or re-provide documentation."
According to Weiss, out of 500,000 claims to date, the GCCF under Feinberg has distributed almost $4 billion to some 200,000 claimants across the Gulf region.
According to GCCF statistics, 97 percent of the quick pay claims have been paid. Those folks accepted a one time payment of between $5,000 to $25,000 and signed an agreement not to sue BP. About 100,000 people have done this.