Victims still awaiting Feinberg help on oil spill anniversary

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 18, 2011 at 10:23 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News

GRAND ISLE, La. -- As the waves crashed ashore on Grand Isle's deserted beaches on a warm and windy spring afternoon, the barrier island's economy is still suffering one year after the BP oil spill.

Across the highway, the lunch crowd at Sarah's Restaurant was just six tables.

Charter boat Captain Jay Auseve sat at one, his eyes filling with tears because things are so bad he could still lose his business.

"We had to go borrow money to pay the taxes, and the phone is still not ringing. A lot of people don't think that the fish is good to eat. We hoping that everything does start picking up."

At age 76, Sarah's Restaurant owner Sarah Rigaud was supposed to be retired, but she is still working double shifts. She's taking medication for stress.

"Very tired," she said. "I haven't been able to get any days off, because I don't have the extra help, so I've got to stay here and work myself."

Sarah's Restaurant nearly closed this winter. Business dropped 80 percent after the oil spill, and is still down 40 percent. Rigaud had to lay off six staff members because she couldn't afford to pay them.

"In a small place like this, it is almost like family, so it was very hard to tell some of them that I can't let you work any more except maybe one or two days a week," said Rigaud.

"A lot of people got laid off," said waitress Gina Chiasson. "A lot, I mean it came close to like all of us getting laid off. They almost had to close the doors, it's been that slow."

"It's been rough, because we have been struggling along with them, so they're not alone," said long-time customer and Grand Isle resident Mary France-Auseve. "But I hate to see this place go, because this is the only place I eat."

Loans from friends and family, even Eyewitness News viewers have helped, but the aid they counted on, Ken Feinberg's oil spill fund, only gave them a tiny check.

"Be on the phone day in and day out with these people, and not getting no results from them, when they promise you all kinds of things, and not coming through with it," said Rigaud. "That's what aggravates me."

"He didn't do his job, he didn't do his job, that's all I got to say," Chiasson said.

In January, I gave Ken Feinberg the plea for help from Sarah's Restaurant.

"I'll take a look at those claims," Feinberg said then, who said he'd give an answer "in a matter of days" because "it is a claim that ought to be paid."

"I don't think we heard from them at all after that," Sarah said.

They are so desperate they agreed to take a final settlement on their claim, even though it could be very small. Meanwhile Captain Jay said his charter boat business also didn't get the help needed from Ken Feinberg.

"I'm about ready to kill, honestly," he said. "Do you think they cared whether you stayed in business, or shut down? No, they don't care."

These beaches may be mostly empty now, but everyone here is hoping it doesn't stay that way. Grand Isle depends on tourism. So this summer, especially for businesses like Sarah's Restaurant, is the most important ever.

"It's very essential," said Rigaud. "If we don't make it this summer, we aren't going to make it through the winter."

"If they don't come back, we gonna shut it down, we don't have no choice," Captain Jay said.

 

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