GRAND ISLE, La. – It is wintertime in Grand Isle, and a cold wind blows across the beach where oil spill cleaning equipment still sits.
Many of the fishing camps are shuttered, which explains why Sarah’s Restaurant is nearly empty at lunch time. Business is down 80 percent, but the oil spill ruined summer profits that they normally could count on, so owner Annete Rigaud is working 14 hours a day, fear and exhaustion shadowing her face.
“Very stressed. Trying to just keep the doors open, and not close down, and it’s a day-by-day decision,” Rigaud said.
They are still waiting for help from Ken Feinberg’s oil spill claims group, but the restaurant has only been offered a fraction of its emergency request.
“1/16th of the claim, and so it is not anywhere what we need it to be,” she said. “That paid one bill.”
The stress is even causing Annette’s mother Sarah, the restaurant’s founder, to have health problems.
“I get so nervous sometimes until all I do is just break down and cry,” Sarah Rigaud said. “So I went back to the doctor and he doubled my milligrams on my medication for stress.”
Even Annette’s personal claim has been screwed up. They sent her a check for one-sixth of the expected amount, and when she told them about the mistake, they demanded it back, even though she is nearly broke.
“They told me do not cash that because we will not be able to correct it, and that’s what I did. I sent it back,” said Annette Rigaud. She said she hasn’t received another claim.
“It’s down to a third. It’s really really bad,” said waitress Jamee LeBlanc.
While LeBlanc’s income has been cut drastically, two of her case workers got their claims approved, but the rest, including Jamee, were denied, and they are shocked.
“The unfairnes of it, but then there was nothing else I could do. It was just waiting,” Leblanc said.
Annette Rigaud said Grand Isle’s mayor even gave the restaurant’s claim to President Barack Obama when he was in Washington recently. But in the meantime she is now so worried she has asked for a final settlement on her personal claim, hoping to get some money in that she can use to keep the restaurant open.
“I’m still trying to just hang on, and I’m tired,” she said.
Annette Rigaud said the restaurant would have closed were it not for a Good Samaritan who helped her after the first Action Report, but she doesn’t know if she will make it through the winter.