For BP Oil Spill Claimants in Gulf, Needs Haven't Been Met

Claim checks not enough for suffering Gulf business owners after oil spill.

ByABC News
February 21, 2011, 10:47 AM

March 3, 2011 — -- When the money ran out, shrimper Darla Rooks gave up her apartment and moved in with her daughter. One of an unprecedented half a million BP claimants, the Louisiana shrimper and oyster harvester has spent her life on Gulf waters -- she even got married in her fishing boots. Now she's swimming in red tape.

"We're starving to death," she said from her daughter's home in Mississippi, which she and her husband were renovating – adding a room for themselves. "We're having to move in with our families and rely on our families, it's humiliating, my daughter just got married, six months back… " she said. "We count on our living to supply us with what we need. We know no other way."

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So far, the $20 billion Deepwater Horizon disaster compensation fund, headed by Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg, has paid about $3.6 billion to 170,000 claimants, the vast majority of which have been emergency payments of a few thousand dollars. But claimants, from shrimpers in Louisiana to hotel owners in Florida, complain the compensation process has been too slow and that their needs have gone unmet.

And what Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility has offered is a pittance compared with what many feel they deserve. Of the 8,200 claimants that have been offered final compensation, only 2.5 percent have accepted it.

For those like Rooks, filing for a claim means miles of overwhelming paperwork. "It will never get done," she said. "I can never give them what they want. This can go on for 20 years. What they just gave me ... I'm owed more than that."