DELACROIX, La. – Cindy Berry is hanging the Christmas decorations she just bought at Sweetwater Marina in Delacroix.
But after Ken Feinberg’s claims group denied her emergency appeal for help, she is not feeling the Christmas spirit. She’s worried about having to lay off employees.
“Let me tell you. I wish I could take those decorations back right now, because I would,” Berry said. “I would in a heartbeat to pay the people that were so happy to get a job.”
Berry and Cpt. Jack Payne opened Sweetwater Marina in April, and things looked so promising until the oil spill.
“We had just opened April 2, and April 30 we were closed,” Berry said. “Zone One. We had people staying with us that had to leave because they could not even launch their boat and fish right across that bayou.”
Fishing charters dried up, the bait shop closed, plans for the restaurant were shelved, the boat storage sheds stayed empty. They’re thankful Wildlife and Fisheries agents rented rooms in the lodge, which brought in some income. Getting desperate, they filed with Feinberg and were stunned when their claim was denied last week.
“I screamed, I said denied? I said lady, I’m surrounded by water,” said an astounded Berry. “I’m a marina! I’m a marina, I said how are we denied?”
Ken Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility has received 460,000 claims. Of that 160,000 have been approved, but so far, 230,000 have been denied — including Payne and Berry’s, and that means now they’re struggling to pay their bills. Already this month, the insurance payment is late.
“Monthly payments on the land, the lodge, employees I have out here that are working for us that I want to keep employed. I have just one bill after the next,” Payne said. “It’s horrible. You don’t even think you’re in America right now, the way we’re being treated. It’s ridiculous.”
“We’re surrounded by water,” Payne said “Mr. Feinberg, if we do not meet the criteria for a loss, then I don’t know what does.”
I asked Feinberg executives to review this case. Payne and Berry wonder how long they can avoid losing everything.
“It’s almost like a bad dream,” Payne said.
“Yes, it does, it’s like a nightmare,” Berry said. “Your dream goes to a nightmare.”