Gulf Residents Grow Desperate in BP Claim Wait

As oil continues to spread through the Gulf of Mexico, the damage grows by the day. At least 110,000 claims have been filed with BP so far, and $183 million have been paid out.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

But tens of thousands of people are still waiting for their claims to be paid, running out of patience and money, CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella reports.

Twelve weeks into the oil spill Karen Hopkins is desperate.

"For the first time in my life, I applied for food stamps," Hopkins said.

In better days, Hopkins made $4,000 a month working for Blanchard Seafood in Grand Isle, La., but because of the fishing ban work has come to a halt. BP paid her $2,500 for lost wages last month, and another $730 for rental assistance. On Tuesday morning, she was told the rental help was going away.

"He said, 'Things are changing, and we can't do that anymore,'" Hopkins said.

All of the employees at Blanchard Seafood live in company housing. It's part of their salary, but because it doesn't show up in income tax returns under new BP rules it's not factored into compensation.

"They've taken away every ounce of security that I've had," Hopkins said.

Forty-two thousand claims are on hold or being adjusted downward because of what BP calls "insufficient paperwork." Another 13,000 are stalled because of "bad contact information."

"We intend on getting the money out, but we've got to look for ways to do it faster, and we will," Darryl Willis, a BP vice president, said.

Yet even people who keep meticulous records are battling BP. Dean Blanchard owns Blanchard Seafood. He's lost over a million dollars in net profit already. BP has paid him a fraction of that, $165,000. It's not nearly enough.

"I don't know anybody in my business that has lost something that believes that BP made an attempt to make them whole," Blanchard said.

In about three weeks, Kenneth Feinberg will be the ultimate authority on claims instead of BP, and people like Hopkins will have a decision to make: take a settlement or sue.

"I feel like a criminal that's being sentenced for a crime I didn't commit," said Hopkins. "It's scary."

With her job, her home and her future on the line, like thousands of others here, this may just be the beginning of Hopkins's nightmare.

More Oil Spill Coverage

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Gov't Hopes New Drilling Moratorium Survives
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  • Kelly Cobiella

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