Half of Plaquemines Parish Families Ask Feinberg for Grocery Money


There’s a culture clash of sorts underway in Plaquemines Parish, and it illustrates both how bad things are getting for Gulf communities and how little residents are understood by claims czar Kenneth Feinberg and his crew. The Times-Picayune has reported that “about half” of Parish households are using form letters – some provided by Parish Council members on official letterhead – to seek payment for food costs.

The concept is simple: These families used to eat fish, but the BP spill eliminated that option, or at least greatly increased costs…so now they have to buy additional groceries. Mr. Feinberg, once again, complained about lack of documentation. From the Times-Picayune: “No grocery receipts, no documentation, just an allegation of subsistence loss,” Feinberg said. “Four thousand claims where the claim form is exactly the same, including the misspelling. Outrageous! I can’t pay those claims.”

Clearly, the families and the Parish were not being deceptive – the letters were on Parish letterhead. And Plaquemines Parish Council Chairman Don Beshel told the newspaper that he “came up with the form letter about seafood production costs – and typed it on parish letterhead – as a way to help his constituents.”

It turns out, says the TP report, that Mr. Beshel’s 1st District office is in the same building as one of Mr. Feinberg’s 35 claims centers. Mr. Beshel says he checked with claims workers at the office to make sure his letter was appropriate. Shortly after he distributed the missive to Parish families, Beshel watched as the center was inundated with claims.

It seems an honest effort to get some relief in a situation where there is precious little to help struggling Gulf families. It is yet another stark example of just how desperate this situation has  become.

David Hammer’s report is here: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/09/plaquemines_residents_inundate.html

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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