MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The well may be capped, but the aftermath of the BP oil spill carries on. And we begin this hour with the big shift in the way thousands of fishermen and business owners can seek compensation for their losses. The president's handpicked administrator, Kenneth Feinberg, took over the management of BP's $20 billion compensation fund today.
NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports from Biloxi, Mississippi.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Ken Feinberg held one of three town hall meetings today at a community hall here in Biloxi, one of the hardest hit regions of the Gulf.
Mr. KENNETH FEINBERG (Administrator, Gulf Coast Claims Facility): The Gulf Coast Claims Facility has replaced BP. BP is out of this claims process.
DEL BARCO: Feinberg said, from now on, the facility will be handling claims for BP's oil spill victims.
Mr. FEINBERG: I understand completely the frustration, the anger, the uncertainty. I'm here to try and explain what I can do and what I can't do. And one thing I can promise is some prompt answers. They may not always like the answers, but answers they will get.
DEL BARCO: Feinberg has held many of these meetings in recent weeks. In Biloxi, he heard from shrimp fishermen like Lawrence Simpson, who was unsure how to make a claim for the business he started with his wife. Five years ago, they lost their house to Hurricane Katrina, and now with the Gulf spill, their boat is useless.
Mr. LAWRENCE SIMPSON (Shrimp Fisherman): BP says if you don't have a business plan, then we're not going to give you anything. But we wiped out our life savings to put this together.
Mr. FEINBERG: Here's the answer. First, you've got to claim for the cost of putting this business together. Secondly, if you want additional damage for lost income going forward, you've got to present some estimate as to what your business would have generated.
DEL BARCO: Feinberg pointed out that BP has paid out nearly $400 million to individuals and businesses harmed by the disaster. And he insists it was his idea, not BP's, to require that anyone who receives a final settlement from the $20 billion compensation fund give up the right to sue the oil company.
Mr. FEINBERG: All the talk in the world won't convince anybody that I'm independent. The only real test of independence: how quickly I can process these claims, evaluate them, make a calculation as to what should be compensated and get the checks out the door.
DEL BARCO: Feinberg promised them it will now take two days for fishermen to get their money after their claims are processed, and for businesses, seven days.
But some, like shrimp and oyster fisherman John Franklin, are unconvinced.
Mr. JOHN FRANKLIN (Shrimp and Oyster Fisherman): I'm still - you know what I mean? I'm going to wait and see, just like everything else that BP said. You know what I mean? This man here, I hope he's honest with what he says. He acts like he is. He sounds honest. We're going to have to wait and see.
DEL BARCO: And as he waits for monetary compensation though, even Franklin won't eat the shrimp and oysters he manages to catch this year.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Biloxi, Mississippi.
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