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Spill claimants: Process slow, haphazard

  |   July 26, 2011 at 10:37 AM
NEW ORLEANS, July 26 (UPI) -- Local fishermen, seafood processors and others affected by last year's monster oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico say the claims payment process isn't working.

Some say the Gulf Coast Claims Facility that administers the $20 billion BP fund hasn't moved fast enough to pay claims and has determined compensation haphazardly, USA Today reported Tuesday.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered an audit of the fund, which the fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg said would occur this year.

Figures provided by the compensation fund indicate it's paid about $4.8 billion of the $20 billion available.

The fund was started following the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig April 2010, which killed 11 workers and let loose more than 170 million gallons of crude into the gulf. BP leased the rig and assumed most of the responsibility for its aftermath.

Local officials and some claimants say the facility's operations have improved in recent months after complaints early on about the time it took to process claims and about the lack of a clear explanation about why some claims were rejected.

"Some aspects of the program have gotten better," Orange Beach, Ala., Mayor Tony Kennon told USA Today. "We still don't feel like we're where we should be, but I do appreciate [Feinberg] moving in our direction."

Critics, however, said the process still is bogged down and random, explaining that some boat deckhands received full compensation while business owners who submitted complete documentation received only a percentage of their losses.

"I'm not looking for a handout. I'm just looking for them to make right what they did wrong," said oyster fisherman Robert Campo from St. Bernard Parish, La., adding that the compensation fund has offered him less than one-third of what he requested for 2010 losses.

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