Feinberg: 4,000 form letters for grocery $

Published 5:46 pm Wednesday, September 29, 2010

About half the households in Plaquemines Parish are using photocopied form letters to ask for grocery money without any documentation to back up their claims, says the administrator of BP’s $20 billion oil spill compensation fund.

Kenneth Feinberg said one letter cites hardships from increased seafood production costs. The other says the writer had to buy groceries to replace fish previously caught by relatives, friends or neighbors.

“No grocery receipts, no documentation, just an allegation of subsistence loss,” Feinberg said. “Four thousand claims where the claim form is exactly the same, including the misspelling. Outrageous! I can’t pay those claims.”

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Parish Council Chairman Don Beshel said he wrote the letter about production costs and typed it on parish letterhead to help his constituents, then sent copies to other council members to send to their constituents.

He said he checked with claims workers to make sure the letter was appropriate. Shortly after he sent out copies, he watched as the office was inundated with claims.

Beshel bristled at Feinberg’s request for better documentation, even if it’s just grocery receipts to show how much a family now must spend on store-bought food.

“If I give fish to my mother-in-law, how can she document that? Do you keep your grocery receipts? No one keeps grocery receipts,” Beshel said.

The claims blitz comes just days before the council and parish president face elections, on Saturday. Parish President Billy Nungesser, who has tangled with Beshel on occasion, said Tuesday he was embarrassed by the form letters.