Bend Over Backwards
Editorial: Alabama leaders doing what it takes to fix the broken claims process
From sternly worded letters to face-to-face meetings, the state’s highest-ranking politicians — including Gov. Bob Riley, Congressman Jo Bonner, Sen. Jeff Sessions and Sen. Richard Shelby — went to bat last week for angry coastal residents who are frustrated by slow, partial or, in some cases, wrongly denied payments.
Gov. Riley and Rep. Bonner got the ball rolling by complaining in writing to the news media and the Obama administration. The governor justifiably compared Mr. Feinberg’s process to “extortion,” and the congressman rightly blasted the “pennies on the dollar” paid by Mr. Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
At week’s end, Sen. Shelby summoned the claims czar to meet with him and Sen. Sessions, after which the senators and Mr. Feinberg spoke to reporters about the changes he will make in the process.
Chief among his plans is the creation of a task force of accountants who will meet with Gulf Coast business owners who contend they haven’t been fairly compensated. That’s a sensible — and overdue — step.
Mr. Feinberg also pledged to “bend over backwards” to pay businesses whose losses are “adequately documented.” He has made similar promises in the past, though not in the company of two powerful U.S. senators.
Here’s hoping their intervention will result in genuine reforms before more businesses have to close their doors. Until the claims process is straightened out, neither individuals nor the Gulf Coast economy can recover from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Gov. Riley, the senators and Rep. Bonner represented their suffering constituents well. The same cannot be said for lame-duck Attorney General Troy King, who last week imprudently issued a “consumer alert” that encouraged people to opt out of the claims process and instead sue BP.
Mr. King needs to remember that the goal is swift and fair restitution for people who were damaged by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. If Mr. Feinberg will fix his flawed process, then people can get their money now rather than waiting on drawn-out legal proceedings.