In the 15 weeks since BP’s gross negligence killed 11 people and put tens of thousands out of work, more than 100,000 claims against the company have been filed. As of July 31, less than a third of them—38,000 out of a total of 138,000 — had received a first check,company data shows.
So yes, BP’s pipe has finally stopped gushing oil into the Gulf Coast’s waterways, but that doesn’t mean the economic bloodletting is done. With only 1.3 percent of the $20 billion BP set aside for damages—$266 million— put towards these claims so far, we wonder how much more will go to those whose livelihoods have been disrupted, or even destroyed. We want to understand why people are not being repaid, and why those who are seeing claims processed continue to wait for payment.
These questions can’t be answered by a single reporter’s network, nor even that of a single newsroom. For this reason, we are asking you, our readers, to help us shine a light on the processes that BP is using to make Gulf Coast communities whole again.
If you’ve filed a claim with BP, please share details of your experience with reporters from The Lens, and with our partners at American Public Media and ProPublica,using this form. (This post is also available in Spanish and Vietnamese on ProPublica’s website.) A reporter may follow up with you by phone, and we’ll make it easy for you to share documents and records with our newsrooms.
If you haven’t filed a claim, you can help The Lens find claimants by doing your own outreach – tweet this, post it to Facebook, and/or send it out to local listserves.
Our reporting has already shed light on problems like translation difficulties between BP representatives and Vietnamese fishers put out of work by the company’s actions. Other news reports have exposed the difficulties facing Louisiana fishers who earn their incomes in cash and don’t have the documentation BP wants to see before paying out.
We see the trail of these problems every day in southern Louisiana, whether on the face of a child whose parent who is out of work, or in the empty shucking station of our favorite oyster bar. Yet it is difficult to understand how serious these problems are without expanding our network to reach more than the handful of those whom we already know are affected. Our goal is to cast a wide net, hear as many experiences as we can, and try to figure out which parts of the claims system are working and which ones aren’t, so we can add some accountability to the process. Please help us.