June 16, 2010 -- While BP promised today to set aside $20 billion to cover the impact of the oil spill on the people of the Gulf Coast, many of those whose livelihoods have been ruined by the spill say they're in desperation, still waiting for help.
Louisianan Tammy Wolfer and her husband own a shrimp boat, which has been docked for weeks due to the oil. They've filed a business claim with BP, filling out paperwork and turning in three years' worth of tax returns.
So far, though, they said, they've received nothing from BP.
"In eight weeks nothing, not one red cent," Wolfer said. "I had to let my car go back because I can't make payments. I'm walking back and forth to work."
That is the new reality along the Gulf Coast -- families defaulting on car loans and teetering on their mortgages.
Jim Paul, who works as a deck hand, is one who's trouble paying his monthly mortgage.
"Everyone has mortgages, what can you do? Tell them to send the bill to BP?" Paul said.
BP Claims the Check Is in the Mail
In the eight weeks since the start of the spill, he said he's received just one check from BP for $2,500. He would have made up to four times that amount if his work hadn't been derailed by the spill.
Today, Paul called BP to check up on his claim. After putting him on hold for 11 minutes, they first told him that they couldn't find his file and then assured him that the check must be in the mail.
"OK, what do I tell my bill collectors?" Paul said.
BP will not talk about specific cases, but late today told ABC News that 27,600 checks have been written so far. That's about half of all claims, but fewer than a quarter of those have gone to businesses with claims totaling $5,000 or more.
Business Owners Struggle Without Payments
Oysterman Jeff Gallet said he's already lost $80,000 this season and has yet to receive a check from BP. The company has told him he needs to submit more paperwork, he said.
Oil has already ruined many of his oysters.
"If I could get 10 good ones out of this batch, I'd be surprised," Gallet said today as he looked at the water of his oyster farm.
And if the ruined oyster beds are any evidence, the losses will only get worse. Once the oil reaches the beds, it takes at least three to four years before the oysters can come back.
BP Not Accepting Donations to Help With Cleanup?
While people along the Gulf Coast complain that BP is failing to pay out their claims, other Americans say the company is refusing to accept help, too.
A viewer named Harry Candullo wrote "World News" after he saw a report on our North Carolina affiliate about a mountain of supplies.
"All of the wildlife people we have contacted tell us they need these items, but these efforts are being blocked by BP," Candullo wrote.
Sherry Johnston of North Carolina said she has been stockpiling supplies to help with the spill and spent five weeks making calls and writing emails, hoping to find a wildlife refuge to receive them.
Today, BP officials refused to go on camera to answer questions as to why Johnston's supplies haven't been accepted when there is clearly so much need. They told ABC News in a letter that no donation policy exists, even though the crisis has been going on for nearly 60 days.
"BP doesn't have a process set up to receive either monetary contributions or donated items," BP spokesman John Curry wrote.
So ABC went directly to wildlife refuges that are taking in oiled animals, and late Tuesday night found one that is both in need of supplies and willing to accept donations -- the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans.
They need "toothbrushes, towels, Dawn, vegetable oil. It is very basic," said Michele Kelley, the institute's stranding coordinator.
The institute uses those supplies to clean animals like endangered sea turtles, some of which arrived in need of help today.
When ABC News told Johnston about Audubon's need, she said she will soon take action on what she described as "fantastic" news. Next week, she said, she will drive to New Orleans with her 9-year-old daughter and a trailer full of supplies in tow.
"It's amazing. It really is," Kelley said. "The American people always pull together when there is a catastrophe."