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Aug 18, 2010 11:12 PM by Chris Welty

Feinberg Promises Quick Response on Spill Claims

KENNER, La. (AP) - The man taking over the Gulf oil spill claims
process from BP promised spill victims fast service, with short
term emergency payments coming in two days for individuals and
seven days for businesses if their applications are properly
documented.
Ken Feinberg told crowds in Louisiana on Wednesday that there
will be one initial bit of red tape for victims with claims
currently pending before BP: they will have to submit a new
application. But they won't have to reproduce documentation they've
already given BP. That will be transferred to the new independent
operation Feinberg is heading up.
Feinberg, chosen by President Barack Obama and BP to oversee the
independent Gulf Coast Claims Facility, said the new applications
will be needed to facilitate faster emergency payments. He added
that applicants will be eligible for emergency payments regardless
of what they've already gotten from BP.
Those emergency payments will be made for up to six months. And
victims who accept them will not have to give up their right to sue
BP. Aside from emergency payments, there will also be long-term
final payments available. People accepting those final offers will
give up their right to sue, Feinberg said.
BP PLC says it has paid about $368 million to individuals and
businesses. But thousands of claims were unresolved as BP ended the
acceptance of new applications Wednesday in anticipation of
Feinberg's Monday morning takeover.
Feinberg spoke to gatherings in Houma, La. and in the New
Orleans suburb of Kenner. The Kenner crowd numbered about 500, a
diverse group of fishermen, oyster harvesters, seafood processors
and restaurant owners of various ethnic backgrounds.
He promised fair and prompt payments, despite the complexities
involved in some claims. He stressed that he would even look at
claims rejected by BP before the transition. "I'm not beholden to
BP," he said.
Some listeners were openly skeptical. One asked, through an
Asian interpreter, why oil spill victims should trust him, since,
despite his new agency's independence, he will be compensated by
BP.
"The only way you trust me is if, over the next few weeks and
months, the money is going out in a fair and consistent fashion,"
he said.
Asked what his salary will be, he said he would release that
information within weeks after the transition is made and a budget
is completed.
Lan Nguyen, representing OCA, an advocacy organization for Asian
Americans, expressed frustration at the lack of Vietnamese speaking
staffers or translators at the existing BP claims offices, many of
which will have the same staffers on hand when Feinberg takes over
on Monday.
"I've retrained all of these people. We've set new standards
new rules," Feinberg said, adding that existing staff would be
supplemented with additional help if needed and assuring Nguyen
that translators will be available.
"We want to believe that he's going to do meet what he says,"
Nguyen said afterward.
Restaurant owner and seafood dealer Tommy Delaune said he was
more optimistic about prospects for a fast, fair claim after
hearing from Feinberg. His business, he said, is complex, with
different facilities in different Louisiana parishes, that include
shrimp docks, seafood processing, oyster sales and restaurants.
Some of the operations are well established and others were just
getting off the ground when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on
April 20.
"I'd sold and wholesaled oysters for two months," he said,
adding that BP had turned his extensive documents over to forensic
auditors.
Delaune was encouraged by Feinberg's experience with past
disaster claims - including those arising from the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks. "I believe he's sincere," said Delaune. "He
has some experience in having done this. And he realizes that the
buck stops with him."

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