BP opens claims office in Naples
Dozens are already visiting in seek of ...
NAPLES — Janet Natale-Towner and her husband, Larry Towner, have had quite the summer.
Four days after moving into a new place, Towner lost his job working in security. He has since found another security job with fewer hours and less pay. Natale-Towner, who works in the food service industry, saw her hours get cut, which means she is bringing home less.
They stood in line at the Gulf Coast Claims Facility on the last day to file to receive an emergency advance payment from BP after this spring’s oil spill, which occurred when the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. Although no oil washed up on Southwest Florida’s shores, many residents and business owners suffered financially with a loss of tourism dollars.
Tuesday was the deadline for individuals and businesses to file for an emergency advance payment, which is a claim from someone experiencing a financial hardship resulting from damages incurred by the spill. So far, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has spent nearly $2 billion on payouts to 125,000 individuals and businesses in the Gulf of Mexico. The majority of those claims have been for loss of income, according to daily reports published by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
“Any little bit would help,” said Natale-Towner. “If we are meant to get it, we will get it. If we don’t, it’s God’s will. But at least we tried. ... This will give us a cushion to survive.”
Towner said financial help from BP would help the couple get caught up on their bills and would give them some breathing room.
Most of those standing in line outside the claims office Tuesday morning were individuals filing claims.
Naples resident Alex Martinez, 23, said he had heard about the claims office from friends and decided to come to see if he was eligible for funds after he lost income from his job in the restaurant industry. Martinez said he had to take three jobs to maintain his salary over the past year.
“My income did drop. ... It was slow, especially here, with the tourists,” he said. “If they want to give me something back, that will be all right. If they don’t, that’s all right, too.”
Martinez can be cavalier about his loss of income over the summer because he starts a new job in January. He is joining the Marines.
“I am ready to move on,” he said of the career change.
Others, such as David Oldenburg, don’t have the luxury.
“I lost money because of the oil spill. I work close to the beach and definitely felt the hit,” he said. “My friends encouraged me to think about filing a claim.”
After walking inside the claims office in East Naples, Oldenburg, of Naples, said he was asked to provide paperwork detailing how much he had lost and verifying his employment.
“They told me it would take three to six weeks,” he said of receiving his money. “Maybe it will be sooner.”
Those who feel they have been wronged by BP and still want to file a claim will have the ability to do so. Starting Wednesday, claimants can file for a final lump sum payment, but they must sign a waiver that they will not sue in the future. Claimants can also apply for interim payments without signing a waiver.
The Gulf Coast Claims Facility will be open until Aug. 23, 2013.
Connect with K-12 education policy reporter Katherine Albers at www.naplesnews.com/staff/katherine-albers/.