Carrabelle resident Glenn Buffkin has seen 35 years of shrimping in the Gulf of Mexico off The Forgotten Coast. It's a life that keeps him on the water for days at a time - a life that slipped away from him soon after the B.P. oil spill.
"It was like somebody flipped a light switch off in June. Nobody... I would set up and try to peddle my shrimp and sell a third or a quarter of them," says Buffkin.
Just a few boats are tied up along the docks in Carrabelle, but these docks used to be filled boats at least five rows into the water. It's just one more sign that recovery maybe quite some time away.
Buffkin says he can't just wait for the seafood industry to recover. So instead of shrimping each day like his father before him, Buffkin is finding side work - like tiling.
As Buffkin tiles, he can think through his legal situation. He hasn't made a final claim for his loss of shrimping business yet, but the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which was set up to compensate victims of the oil spill, recently denied his emergency claim mostly for lack of documentation and evidence of income.
Buffkin sighs, "I gotta talk to a lawyer."
"If you have to collect the evidence from friends and relatives and others and there's no documentation, then that's going to be hard fought and that's where you're going to need an attorney to help you," explains Don Hinkle.
Tallahassee attorney Don Hinkle is on a legal team Florida Governor Charlie Crist commissioned to represent the state of Florida and cities and counties that are suffering tax and other losses due to the oil spill. Hinkle says individual victims can opt to make a emergency and final claims against B.P. themselves through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility website but a deadline is looming.
"Once the emergency claims process is over on November 23rd, then
it'll only be final claims that'll be paid," says Hinkle.
"It's an intimidating process," adds Kris Knab.
Knab runs the Legal Services of North Florida which offers legal help to qualified lower income people. She says completing the claims process isn't simple for everyone and several thousand claims - like Glenn Buffkin's - are being denied. The Gulf Coast Claims Facility reports it denied more than 20,000 claims in October.
"The form that's been developed is 27 pages long with the instructions and it's at an 11th grade or above reading level. So if you are attempting to fill out a claim by yourself and there's supporting documentation that you need, there are a lot of people who are not going to probably make it through that without some help," explains Knab.
Getting help from an attorney or legal services may allow you to forget about the work involved in making an adequate claim. But Glenn Buffkin and the people of The Forgotten Coast can't forget how the B.P. oil spill is still affecting their lives.
Again, the deadline for filing an emergency claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility is November 23, 2010. After that date, you can only pursue a final claim.
For more information, you can visit the Gulf Coast Claims Facility website at ww.gulfcoastclaimsfacility.com or www.thebpclaimsfund.com or www.cleanupthegulfcoast.com.