Posted on June 11, 2010 at 10:25 PM
Friday, Jun 11 at 11:17 PM
NEW ORLEANS -- Whether you're a business owner trying to collect losses through BP's claim process, or an out of work fisherman hoping to earn a paycheck by deploying boom for BP, concerns continue over the oil company's pace in dishing out its dollars. The federal government is pitching a possible solution, but it's a 4-letter word that residents and leaders hoped they'd never hear again: FEMA.
As BP says it's working to send out a second round of claims checks to impacted families, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tells Eyewitness News she plans on dispatching a top FEMA official to Louisiana to make sure BP improves the process.
"To help make sure BP's claims process is clear, understandable, the documents have been translated, for example, into different languages and that they are paying the claims in a timely manner," Napolitano said Friday in an interview with WWL-TV.
But in the wake of FEMA's highly criticized performance in paying out claims post Katrina, some wonder what will be different.
"FEMA is a classic government bureaucracy it moves very, very slowly," said Clancy DuBos, Eyewitness News Political Analyst and Gambit political columnist. "Bringing in FEMA to speed things up with oil spill claims process just seems counter intuitive."
Along the coast of Louisiana, the work of deploying boom is hard, the air is hot, and under the sun everything seems longer---the depths of the trucks packed with boom, and the time it takes to un pack it all onto nearby boats.
"As fast we load it, they're putting it right out, coming right back in," said Colby Creppel, a commercial fisherman now employed by BP to deploy boom across the Louisiana coast.
While the vessels are filled with boom, the fisherman are filled with worry. With much of the area's waters still closed to shrimping and oystering, these men now work for BP trying to defend their cost. Their financial future rests in the hands of the oil company.
"The first time for the claims process….I had to wait in line for over 4 hours to try to get our money," said Creppel.
Iris Terrebonne of Laffite just picked up her husband's second BP check for working out in the gulf . But she says his first check has yet to clear.
"We don't need time, we need relief right away," said Terrebonne.
She's worried about yet another layer of bureaucracy. FEMA's help would be a hindrance, she says, to her and her children.
"Only now people from [Hurricane] Katrina are getting their money and this is ever since 2005," said Terrebonne. "I just think it's ridiculous."
Area leaders call FEMA's involvement unbelievable.
"There's only one word that makes my blood pressure go up more than FEMA, and that's BP," said Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser.
Friday, Gov. Bobby Jindal fell short of badmouthing FEMA, but acknowledged BP's claims process needs an overhaul ---with still 50 percent of its claims unpaid, according to Jindal.
Back on the coast, the work goes on. The boats are still packed with boom, and the fisherman are still filled with worry.
"Yeah, I am worried, all the fisherman are worried," said Creppel."It's not just today or tomorrow…years down the road, that oil could ruin everything.
And there is new information about BP's claims process. If you received a first round claim check, BP said you would automatically get the same amount mailed to your house this month. But Friday evening, a BP spokesperson told Eyewitness News fisherman now working for BP will see a decrease in their second claim check because whatever they are making through the Vessels of Opportunity Program will be subtracted from how much their owed based on their claim.