The administrator of BP Plc's $20 billion fund to compensate US Gulf Coast residents affected by the oil spill said on Monday he would speed up the process by offering quick payments to those who waive their right to sue.
The "quick pay" option is aimed at people and businesses satisfied with the emergency compensation they have received so far. It is also meant for those who lack the documentation to file more claims, fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg told reporters on a conference call.
Individuals choosing this payment option will receive $5,000, while businesses will receive $25,000 within two weeks of filing a claim. They are not required to provide more documentation for their claims.
In exchange, they give up the right to sue BP and other parties and can no longer participate in the program run by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF).
"You cannot come back later," Feinberg said.
By Wednesday of this week, the GCCF will have cleared its decks of emergency payments sought by fishermen, restaurant owners and others who have suffered economic losses due to the oil spill. The deadline to file an emergency claim was Nov 23.
About 170,000 emergency claims totaling about $2.5 billion will have been paid this week, Feinberg said.
In this next phase, the GCCF will focus efforts on considering claims for quarterly interim payments and final payments. Claimants filing for lump-sum final payments also give up their right to sue.
Feinberg, who has been criticized for the program's slowness by claimants and politicians, said he will add more staff to the GCCF 35 offices located in Gulf Coast states.
The GCCF also plans to provide lawyers to those who cannot afford one but would like legal advice before filing a final claim. BP will pay for those lawyers, Feinberg said.