Many BP oil spill victims wait to be compensated

CBS

GRAND ISLE, La. - One year after the Gulf oil spill, the Justice Department announced Thursday that BP has agreed to pay out $1 billion from a $20 billion victims fund to jump-start cleanup projects.

As for those victims, CBS News correspondent Don Teague reports some have received their share of the money -- but many others are still waiting.

Weddings on the beach were among the first casualties when oil and tar balls began washing up on Gulf Coast beaches last spring. Business evaporated overnight.

When hundreds of brides canceled their flower orders, All Island Flowers, a family-owned shop ,was put on the brink.

"We were devastated," owner Lee Kitchens Taylor says. "Still are."

Disaster in the Gulf: One Year Later

With 85 percent of business suddenly gone, Taylor had to give up her salary. "It gets a little disheartening after a while, but you have to keep going."

Taylor says she lost $90,000, but only got emergency payments worth about $20,000 last year - then nothing until last week, when she received an interest payment of $12.31. Where's the principal?

Of the $20 billion fund established by BP to compensate victims, just $3.8 billion has been paid out to roughly two out of every five people who filed a claim. It's caused confusion and anxiety all along the Gulf Coast.

"It's mindboggling and frustrating," says Steve Hillman, of Hillman Shrimp & Oyster Co.

Al Sinseri of P&J Oyster Company says, "They have not fulfilled their obligation as they said they would."

Oyster harvester Marty Melerine says, "I sat across the table from Feinberg. I asked him questions. He looked me square in the eye and said he was going to take care of it. Mr. Feinberg, you haven't taken care of it yet."

"60 Minutes" BP's Victims Fund Kenneth Feinberg's Tough Task

Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg was appointed by President Obama and BP to oversee the claims fund. It's a job that pays his firm $15 million a year. He says the program - while not perfect - is working.

"200,000 claimants - individuals - have been paid. 200,000 in nine months," Feinberg says. "Now it may seem like a low percentage relative to the total number filed, but don't ignore the absolute number."

We first visited the beach wedding business of Chris and Jenny Sherill last August.

Complex claims process confounds spill victims

Within three days of the oil spill, they'd lost 14 weddings worth $10,000 apiece. By early fall, they'd gone through their savings and were on the verge of closing. Finally, in November, they got a check that largely covered their six figure losses. But many neighbors and friends weren't so lucky.

"Some have been compensated, some have not," Jenny Sherrill says.

Her husband Chris adds, "All of a sudden you want to keep quiet about what happened to you."

With no clarity on why some claims are paid and some not, resentment for those who have been paid is growing all along the coast.

"The biggest travesty of all is that Feinberg has put us into that position that it tears this community apart," Chris says.

Many of those who have been reimbursed by BP say they're still losing money because of the oil spill. They're not at all confident their true losses will ever be recovered.

  • Don Teague

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