Governor Robert Bentley, Attorney General Luther Strange and Congressman Jo Bonner today received assurances from Claims Czar Ken Feinberg that there will be improvements to how Alabama residents' claims are processed by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF). Those improvements will put into place measures to process outstanding claims made by Alabamians as a result of last year's BP Gulf Coast oil spill.
"We firmly believe Alabama was hit harder than any other state by last year's oil spill, especially in terms of the economic damages it caused," Governor Bentley said. "It's time we speed up and streamline the claims process so people living near our Gulf Coast can begin to recoup their losses."
Attorney General Luther Strange stated, "Alabamians should know that the Governor's Office, the Attorney General's Office and Congressman Bonner's Office are working together and are committed to holding Mr. Feinberg accountable in ensuring that the GCCF claims process is transparent and that Alabama claims are reviewed, processed and paid promptly."
"As we approach the one year anniversary of this tragedy, we cannot rest until we obtain the fullest extent of relief possible for the innocent victims who live in Alabama," Bonner said. "Our elected officials at every level will continue to insist -- at every available opportunity -- that both the GCCF and BP fulfill their often-stated promises."
Governor Bentley, Attorney General Strange, Congressman Bonner and Feinberg met by phone Friday to discuss the needed improvements to the claims process. In addition to the items listed below, Feinberg acknowledged that under OPA (Oil Pollution Act), claimants are able to seek professional services such as accountants for assistance in preparing their claims and those costs are reimbursable as part of a claims payment. Feinberg has identified three (3) accounting firms to be available for assistance. He has also enlisted the assistance of six (6) attorneys, at the expense of the GCCF, to help claimants in maneuvering through the claims process.
The GCCF will:
* Process at least 25 percent of all pending claims by March 31, 2011.
* Expand staffing at claims offices in Baldwin and Mobile Counties.
* In each Alabama claims office, provide the names of local, independent accounting firms that are available to review and assist claimants in preparing claims documentation. The fees for these
accountants will be submitted with the claimant's GCCF submission as an expense, reimbursable by the GCCF.
* Provide the name of the contact person who is part of Alabama's claims team to allow claimants to obtain additional information on the status of their claim.
* Coordinate the claims process through one person in Alabama and one person in Washington in an effort to assure responsiveness and efficiency.
* Have GCCF accountants on site or available by appointment to answer questions for claimants about their claim determination calculations.
* Summarize, by general category, the reasons for claims being denied to assist with educating claimants and possibly preventing future denials.
Feinberg confirmed that "emergency claims" previously denied may be re-submitted as part of the interim and final payment process. Governor Bentley, Attorney General Strange and Congressman Bonner encourage everyone who believes that they have a loss which should be considered by the GCCF to file a claim.