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BP still working out kinks in claims process


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    A BP claims office

    - Adriene Hill

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    Outside of a BP claims office

    - Adriene Hill

President Obama's BP-focused oval office speech emphasized the need for a fund for workers and business owners administered by an independent agency. So far, BP has paid out about $70 million in claims.

Although some people have managed to get their claims, many have questions about eligibility and frustrations with the process. Fishermen, for example, have difficulty proving income because they work in a cash business; some don't have tax returns. BP is allowing those workers to bring in deposit slips and paperwork from docks.

Eligibility issues are also coming up for others without tax returns. One restaurant owner whose business was destroyed in Katrina and just reopened in March says they don't have a ton of tax returns to back up their claims. Others who have made claims haven't gotten checks they were told were on the way, and those waiting are getting frustrated.

Darryl Willis, who heads up the claims process for BP, admits there were growing pains at the start of the process and says the company is now doing better. Though he has no estimate for how much the company might end up paying out in claims, he says BP is in it for the long haul. "As long as people are damaged as a result of the spill and have lost the ability to make a living, we will be compensating them for their losses," he says.

How BP spill will impact climate legislation

In his oval office speech, President Obama used the BP oil spill to highlight our need to push energy policy forward. Former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, agrees the leak is influening public consciousness. "It should take you back to the basic awareness that there are huge environmental costs that are not built into the price we're paying for gasoline at the gas station, he says, "and we are either going to have to suffer those costs in the forms of increasing environmental damage over time or we're going to have to put a price on carbon. Which is what the two pieces of legislation that the Senate is now considering would do."

Talbott says the administration will likely sell climate change legislation with a focus on jobs. "Green jobs, and how the United States has lost its competitive edge," he says. "China, Germany are eating our lunch when it comes to very profitable exports of green technology. And we're Americans; we're innovative, and we ought to own this market."

Talbott echoes Obama's sentiment that expedience on the climate change bill is crucial. "The decisions that are going to affect what kind of climate we have in 2050 need to be made in the next five years, maximum 10 years. In other words, we've got to get going on this now."


Steve Chiotakis and Adriene Hill contributed to this report.

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I listened to this story while driving to work this morning and could not believe my ears. Here are people openly acknowledging that they are committing tax fraud. Worse yet, your reported never even bothers to raise the point! As a banker I hear the same story over and over. Someone gets turned down for a loan because they do not show the repayment ability and they respond with, "well, you know I am in a cash business". Well, too bad. You can't have it both ways. I have no sympathy for these people.

I have nothing but contempt for fishermen who "have difficulty proving income" and am furious that you paint them in a sympathetic light. They would have no trouble proving their income if they hadn't under-reported it on their income taxes or failed to report it at all ("some don't have tax returns"). Clearly these people have cheated for years and as far as I'm concerned should reap their just desserts. If they do manage to get payments by bringing in "deposit slips and paperwork from the docks" I hope the federal government uses the same documents to assess back taxes, interest, and penalties. And if that ruins them so be it. They made the choice to cheat and should now live with the consequences.

FYI, I was self-employed for years and could have easily cheated on my taxes but I reported every penny, even when clients failed to send me 1099s. I have no sympathy whatsoever for those who did/do not do likewise. (And how much do you want to be that these same folks complain about "people on welfare"?)

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