STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Let's come back a little closer to home to the Gulf Coast, where the focus is shifting now that the damaged BP well appears to be under control. Many coastal residents are fighting for their economic survival now, and they expect BP to keep them afloat. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.
DEBBIE ELLIOTT: For three months, BP has been promising to make whole, anyone who's lost income due to the oil spill. At a recent workshop in Orange Beach, Alabama, BP Vice President Kris Sliger reiterated the company's commitment.
Mr. KRIS SLIGER (Vice president, BP): We will make whatever resources are necessary to deal with all legitimate claims.
ELLIOTT: BP has paid out just about $300 million. But more than 100,000 people are still waiting to hear about their claims. Many here, haven't seen any money yet. They're holding stacks of papers and say they're getting the runaround.
John Daversa rents out condominiums on Alabama's Gulf Coast.
Mr. JOHN DAVERSA (Owner, AlabamaGulfCondos.com): Ten meetings, every time I met, we're going to have a check today. At the end of the meeting, one more document. So my name is one more document. What do you want?
Mr. SLIGER: As youve described it, the service is not acceptable.
ELLIOTT: Last week, BP announced an expedited claims process and all along the Gulf Coast staged sessions like this one.
Mr. SLIGER: During this workshop, if you're willing to sit down here with us, we will take your claim number. We will give you personal service and we will find a way to pay your claim, assuming it's a legitimate claim.
ELLIOTT: In a room lined with tables of adjusters, twin sisters Sheila Newman and Sheryl Lindsay take him up on the offer.
Ms. SHEILA NEWMAN (Wedding Planner, Orange Beach Weddings): We'd like to know what is this criteria that we're supposed to fall under? We're with Orange Beach Weddings. We do destination weddings
Ms. SHERYL LINDSAY (Wedding Planner, Orange Beach Weddings): Beach weddings.
Ms. NEWMAN: Beach weddings on the beach.
Ms. LINDSAY: On the beach.
ELLIOTT: Adjuster Luke Sharbono tells them if they do business on the beach, they should qualify.
Mr. LUKE SHARBONO (Claims Adjuster): How recently have you spoken to your adjuster in Hammond?
Ms. NEWMAN: Probably Monday or Tuesday.
Mr. SHARBONO: Okay. Well, what I suggest is just get back in contact with him.
Ms. NEWMAN: Why can't you answer us though? I mean thats what we're asking. You have all our paperwork. We're closing our doors. We're losing everything we have within the next week. We need help today, not...
ELLIOTT: The sisters are on edge. They've lost 15 weddings this summer, and brides are not calling to book for next year. Shelia Newman understands why.
Ms. NEWMAN: Why add oil on top of their wedding stress? An oil issue, it is a hard sell.
ELLIOTT: Now, the sisters are having to sell their picture frames, linens and chair covers, just to pay outstanding bills. They're moving out of their storefront this week.
They filed their first claim for $11,000 in June, and two weeks later were denied. Now they've been told their case is on hold. Newman says their last hope is that BP finally issues them a check.
Ms. NEWMAN: This is our lives, we live here, and this is our business and our families are here. Are we supposed to move to another area and forget about what they've done?
Ms. LINDSAY: And we're - just, Sheryl, we are too old to start over.
ELLIOTT: Armed with a pen and a tiny Post-it note pad, adjuster Luke Sharbono takes down the wedding planners' claim number.
Mr. SHARBONO: I'll personally look into it, ladies.
Ms. NEWMAN: Thank you, Lucas.
Mr. SHARBONO: Thank y'all for coming in.
ELLIOTT: After the meeting, Sheryl Lindsay says she's heard this before.
Ms. NEWMAN: They have trained them to say the same thing. All they're doing is looking into it. They get you up again, thinking they'll take care of it. We'll see. I hope we can call you Tuesday and we have a check, but I don't believe it.
ELLIOTT: Some businesses have given up on BP altogether, and say they'll wait until claims czar Ken Feinberg takes over later this month.
He's waiting on BP to make the first deposit on the $20 billion oil spill compensation fund.
Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Orange Beach, Alabama.
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