It's been seven months since BP plugged its gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, but in Florida businesses along the coast continue to suffer, and many are taking out their frustration on one man – Ken Feinberg.
Ken Feinberg knew full well what he was getting into Friday.
“I may be a glutton for punishment, but nobody can say I'm reluctant to return to Florida,” he said.
The man in charge of doling out the BP oil money took a whole lot of criticism from a state house committee.
Feinberg says around 80 percent of Floridians who have submitted claims under the oil spill compensation fund have been denied.
Kathryn Birren is one of them. She drove all the way from Hernando Beach to tell Feinberg her seafood business is on the verge of bankruptcy.
“This is ridiculous,” Birren said. “There's people in the Keys that have been paying off their vehicles, because all our fish have moved down there, and paying off their homes, that are getting $400,000 claims, but yet the people that are getting affected aren't getting anything.”
Feinberg told Birren and testy lawmakers denials are mostly because of poor documentation. He also says over the past eight weeks, 35,000 Florida claims have been paid, but the majority of those are in so-called quick payments, essentially $5,000 settlements with BP.
Representative Peter Nehr in committee... “If people have already, businesses and individuals, have already signed those releases, then how will they be able to file an additional claim for something that we know was caused by the original oil spill?”
“They will not be able to,” Feinberg said.
It's because of that very uncertainty Kathryn refuses to take a quick payment.
“I'm not going to,” she said. “I'm going to stand on it, and they're gonna pay our claim. I don't know where or when, but they're gonna pay it.”
At the conclusion of the committee hearing, Feinberg was put on notice by the chairwoman, who told him, 'What happens next depends on you'... a clear sign this issue is anything but resolved.
Feinberg says he plans to begin issuing checks for the largest claims this weekend. For those that can't be immediately verified, he promises to issue so-called interim payments to help business owners get by.
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