Tourism pitch, first family visit may harm Panhandle fishermen’s claimsby Dara Kam | August 17th, 2010
Promotions touting tar-free Northwest Florida beaches and clear Gulf waters may hurt Panhandle fishermen’s ability to get the emergency six-month payments the new oil disaster claims czar is promising will be easy to get come Monday.
Ken Feinberg will take over BP’s troubled claims system at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Under Feinberg’s new process, individuals or businesses filing claims will get paid for six months of lost revenues instead of BP’s current month-to-month compensation.
Feinberg told fishermen today they may not be eligible for six full months of emergency payments because the oil well is capped, water closures for fishing have been lifted and tourism officials are promoting the cleanliness of Florida waters and beaches.
Even the first family’s weekend trip to the region – aimed at luring visitors to the region – may not have been a good thing for the fishermen.
“Now I see the president’s coming down. I see they opened up the shrimp grounds yesterday. The fishing grounds are open. I’m reading in the newspaper people are returning to the Gulf,” Feinberg, in Pensacola for the second time in a week, told an audience of about 100 at the Pensacola Civic Center.
Feinberg said it appeared to him that things were getting better in the Panhandle despite a persistent refrain from mom-and-pop hoteliers, restaurant owners and fishermen, whose plight was recently worsened when BP shut down the “vessels of opportunity” program that paid them to aid recovery efforts.
“What do you men you can’t fish for six months? Your compatriots are fishing now. I’m reading it in the newspaper. So the new wrinkle…that I didn’t confront two weeks ago or two months ago is what is the impact of the spill as every day I read in the newspaper things are improving.Thank goodness,” Feinberg said.
“I hear what the president says. I’m watching on TV. The beaches look fabulous.”