Oil-spill claim deadline is approaching


HOUMA — The deadline is nearing for residents to obtain a new oil-spill claim number from the group handling payments to individuals and businesses impacted by this summer’s oil disaster.

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility, run by Washington lawyer Ken Feinberg, is managing the $20 billion fund set up by BP to pay out claims.

The new claims process requires residents to file for new claim numbers, even if you have already filed a claim with BP prior to Feinberg taking over the payments.

The deadline to file for a new claim number is Nov. 23. If you have previously filed a claim with BP, all your information has been transferred to the new claims process. But a new claim form must be filled out in order to apply for short-term emergency payments or a final lump-sum payment.

Claims for emergency payments can be submitted through Nov. 23. A claim for a final payment can be submitted through Aug. 23, 2013.

Early in the transition process, residents were told they wouldn’t have to get a new claim number when Feinberg took over, said Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet. That’s likely a source of confusion for many people, he said.

“At one time it was such a big deal that you only had one claim number,” said Sharon Gauthe, executive director of Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing, a nonprofit that has helped people file claims. “We drilled it in them that they didn’t have to go back (for a new claim number).”

But others may not even be filing again because they are growing weary of the claims process, if they’ve not previously been paid what they requested, officials said. Or residents believe they’re not eligible for a payment, the officials said.

“People are saying they want the claims money to go to the really impacted people, such as the fishermen,” said Parish President Charlotte Randolph. “There is money for everyone. It’s just necessary for everyone to recoup what they lost.”

By not filing, the parish presidents say figures on claims paid are not indicating the true damage in Lafourche and Terrebonne.

As of late last week, paid claims have totaled a little more than $500 million across seven parishes in Louisiana, according to figures from Claudet’s office.

On the highest end, Orleans Parish has received $131.45 million, while Terrebonne and Lafourche residents and businesses have received $67.11 million and $41.27 million respectively.

“We should be getting more considering the big fishing community we have,” Claudet said.

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

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