NEW ORLEANS – Hundreds of oil spill victims are still waiting for financial help, and they loudly shared their frustration with BP claims czar Ken Feinberg last week during a town hall meeting in Lafitte.
Among them was Elmer Rogers, an Empire shrimper who dropped to his knees, begging Feinberg for money to feed his family. “What you want me to do, get on my knees and beg for it.
Look, I’m here, I’m on my knees asking for it. I need my money sir, to live,” pleaded Rogers. Rogers words struck a chord. Feinberg promised to help him.
But others, like Rudy Joseph Carmadelle, are still waiting for their fair share.
“They got a lot of people that slip through the cracks. I’m one of them,” said Carmadelle. “I’m not going to get on my knees, but I’m going to sit down and wait and pray, you know. And I hope I get my right share. The only thing I want is my share.”
Carmadelle hasn’t caught one shrimp on his boat in Lafitte since the BP oil spill. The longtime commercial fisherman who lost his home in Katrina is once again trying to stay afloat after another disaster. And he’s still waiting for relief.
“I waited 90 something days, and they sent me a check for $1,400 bucks to get through the winter, six months,” said Carmadelle. “I can’t make six months with $1,400.”
Many have questioned the consistency of the oil spill claims process under Feinberg.
“There’s not enough transparency, there’s not enough consistency in how the rules are being applied,” said Gov. Bobby Jindal.
On Thursday, a legislative panel in Florida was ordered to investigate complaints about the oil spill claims process in that state. But Louisiana’s legislature has yet to set up a similar probe, although the state has the highest percentage of claims.
“I think we really have a duty to get involved and to make sure businesses get compensated appropriately,” said Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans. “At this point, I feel like there’s not a level of accountability and transparency, and I think the legislature can fill that void.”
Leger said he’s been in contact with Louisiana’s speaker of the house to suggest a investigative panel similar to the one in Florida.
Jindal said the probe would have his support if the claim process doesn’t become more transparent. “If we don’t see significant progress, if we don’t see improvement, I’d support, absolutely, not only a legislative probe, but also potentially, again, if it requires judicial action,” said Jindal.
Lafitte Mayor Timothy Kerner believes there’s another solution for a claims process that’s fast and fair. He believe someone familiar with the fishing industry should be in charge.
“If they would do something like that, then maybe we wouldn’t have to go investigate the claims process. Just get somebody there that’s going to know what he’s doing,” said Kerner.
Meanwhile, Carmadelle has submitted more paperwork. He is holding on and hoping for relief. ”
It’s a lot of pressure on us. It’s funny we can hold together,” said Carmadelle. “We’re just hoping and waiting, we’re just hoping [Feinberg] gets somebody to look into [our claim] that can help us. Jindal said his office is working with the U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys general in other states regarding the claims process.
“We’re going to continue to push for more transparency,” said Jindal. “Ultimately, we’d also like to see that the panel of retired Louisiana judges be that final appellate review, so there’s an independent review for people who don’t think they’re being treated fairly by the process today.”
So far, over 470,000 claims have been filed. Less than half have been paid.