BP claimants face new decision

Business at Sarah Rigaud's restaurant has tanked, down ninety percent since the oil spill. BP paid her $10,000. She's applied for another $162,000, or she closes for good.

GRAND ISLE, Louisiana - For months, Ken Feinberg got an earful of angry Gulf Coast residents demanding BP pay them for their losses, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

As the BP fund administrator, Feinberg needed to figure out what was fair for people like Sarah Rigaud.

"This is a lot worse than Katrina," said Rigaud.

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On Grand Isle, Louisiana, business at Sarah's restaurant has tanked, down ninety percent since the spill. BP paid her $10,000. She's applied for another $162,000, or she closes for good.

"We don't know when we'll get another check or even how much it might be," said Rigaud.

The frustration on Grand Isle comes from people still finding tar patties on the beach. What people have never seen is the BP compensation check or any sense of whether they'll ever get one.

Finally, nearly 500,000 people with claims know Feinberg's final formula.

With proper documentation, BP will write most of them a check for twice their losses for 2010. Oystermen will get four times their losses. Accept, and they agree not to sue BP.

Feinberg thinks it's fair, but told CBS News in an exclusive interview that he knows the grumbling is about to get louder.

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"You do not design and administer these compensation programs expecting anybody to be happy," said Feinberg. "It is a reasonable estimate. Many many people disagree with it as being not sufficiently generous."

BP thinks it's too generous. The oil giant has already paid out $3.4 billion in partial claims. And more than $12.6 billion for the clean-up, on-going in places like Bay Jimmy, Louisiana.

BP hired charter captain Danny Wray and his boat for the cleanup. He earned more than $250,000, enough to buy himself a new house.

"I did OK," said Danny Wray.

The locals call guys like Wray, "spillionaires."

"I made the best of a bad situation. I didn't cause the blowout, but I had to do something to feed my wife and get the bills paid," said Wray.

But the spill killed business for Gregg Schlumbrecht, another charter captain. He only got one booking for all this year.

He's counting on a generous BP check.

"This is my sole source of income," said Schlumbrecht.

Like many spill victims, Sarah Rigaud's desperate for a check. And complains about long delays and poor communication.

But Feinberg says only 17 percent of all claimants have filed the needed documentation.

"The biggest obstacle to actually make the payments is the tremendous lack of substantiation for these claims," said Feinberg.

Claims from people faced with a new decision: Take BP's final offer, or hire a lawyer.

  • strassmannbio2011.jpg
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.