Today, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA), and Rep. Al Green (D-TX), sent a letter to Kenneth R. Feinberg, Administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), regarding recent changes to how claims for shrimpers and crabbers from the Deepwater Horizon disaster are calculated.
Under the original methodology for calculating claims, individuals and businesses were entitled to two times their losses from the 2010 season. After oystermen were able to show long-term damage to oyster beds, the payment methodology was increased to four times demonstrated losses. Because of new evidence of considerable ecological effects on the Gulf of Mexico and a softer market for Gulf seafood nationwide, the potential compensation available to crabbers and shrimpers has also been increased to four times demonstrated 2010 losses.
"I applaud this change, however the GCCF should go a step further and apply it to the 4,000 shrimpers and crabbers that have already settled their claims," said Congressman Richmond. "People that agreed with the GCCF's assessment of the financial and environmental impacts of the oil spill -- which we now know was incorrect -- should be made whole."
"Mr. Feinberg's announcement to increase payments to shrimpers and crabbers is a positive step forward, but there is still much more work to be done in order to make the claims process more fair and transparent," said Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. "During my visit to Congressman Richmond's district last month, I heard from countless fisherfolk who have suffered devastating losses through no fault of their own. We must ensure that those who already accepted inadequate final payments, as well as those who have yet to receive any payment, are justly compensated for their losses."
"I applaud GCCF's decision to increase potential compensation for the crabbers and shrimpers whose livelihoods have been threatened by the Deep Water Horizon disaster," said Congressman Honda. "I urge the GCCF to continue to do all that it can to address the urgent needs of these individuals and businesses. This includes applying the compensation change to the 4,000 shrimpers and crabbers that have already settled their claims. The GCCF must also make sure that each AAPI claimant has full access to properly translated materials and in-language assistance when filing a claim. One-third of the shrimping vessels along the U.S. Gulf Coast are Vietnamese American-owned and operated. Further, of the 40,000 Southeast Asian Americans living in the Gulf Coast region, one in five work in the seafood processing industry, which comprises a $3 billion economy and provides the U.S. with one-third of its seafood. The needs of this community must not be ignored."
"On behalf of my constituents, many of whom are fisherfolk, I join in asking that the payment adjustment be made retroactively," said Congressman Green. "Although applying the payment formula adjustment retroactively is not the only thing to do--it is the right thing to do. I would like to thank Mr. Kenneth Feinberg for his willingness to work with Members of Congress to improve the operations of the GCCF. I believe Mr. Feinberg has done the right thing in adjusting the claims payment formula; and I trust that he will continue to work to ensure that all affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill may receive a fair claim."
On November 5, 2011, Reps. Richmond, Chu and Green participated in a town hall meeting in New Orleans, along with Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation, Japanese American Citizens League, and Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association, to discuss the continued recovery from the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill.