About the Gulf Coast Claims Facility
On June 16th 2010, the Obama administration and BP jointly announced the creation of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF). This was set up as an independent claims facility administered by Kenneth Feinberg. The $20 billion response fund was to be used for natural resource damages, state and local response costs as well as individual and business claims.
On August 23rd 2010 the GCCF began accepting claims. Almost 19,000 claims were submitted in the first week alone. By September 8th the same year, 50,000 claims had been filed, of those around 10,000 claims had been paid totaling nearly $80 million dollars. By late September criticism of Feinberg was commonplace among Florida natives and officials over the claims process and the amount of time it was taking for claims to be processed.
Criticism of the GCCF
The Obama administration responded to this criticism with a firm and strongly worded letter to Feinberg to make whatever changes were necessary to move along the unacceptable pace of the claims process. Feinberg responded by promising to implement new procedures that would speed the process along and make it both more efficient as well as generous.
Although the process did indeed speed along, the number of denied claims rose dramatically. Other claimants described how they were receiving a mere fraction of what they had lost. The Department of Justice sent Feinberg a letter on the 19th of November detailing the need for more transparency in the claims process so that victims can see that they are being treated fairly.
On 21st of October 2011, an independent audit of the GCCF won state approval. This audit is to assure claimants of both efficiency and transparency in the claims process.
The Closing of the GCCF and opening of the Settlement Program
On March 8th 2012 the Court ordered a transition process to handle all of the claims to the GCCF until the new Settlement Program opened on June 4th 2012. Because the new Settlement Program does not handle all of the private claims against BP, BP opened up an additional OPA claims process to handle those claims that are not covered by the Settlement Program.
The GCCF no longer accepts any claims at all and Feinberg is no longer associated with the claims program. The Court appointed Mr. Patrick Juneau to oversee the program.
Claimants who were denied a claim through the GCCF, or claimants who received an emergency advance payment or interim payment, can also participate in the Settlement Program.
There are Claimant Assistance Centers available throughout the Gulf region staffed with individuals to assist the claimants with their claims. BP is still responsible for all claim payments made to the Settlement Program.
Under the Settlement Agreement, the Claims Administrator must report to the courts. The vendors are required to provide both BP and the plaintiffs regular reports on the progress and status of the Settlement Program, thus providing an additional layer of accountability. In addition, a Claims Administration Panel was set up to address any issues that may arise from the Settlement Program.