BP has instituted a series of actions to expedite claim payments to businesses impacted by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, including establishing an Immediate Action Claims Team.
"While we have paid thousands of business claims over the past 13 weeks, we recognize the frustration of small business owners who still have claims pending as we transition from the BP claims process to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility," said Darryl Willis, of the BP Claims Team. "We heard from many businesspeople who are suffering, so we acted. These changes are designed to cut through paperwork and expedite payments."
About 2,600 business claims were processed over the past three days, using new guidelines developed to specifically address challenges faced by businesses. As a result, business claims totalling $9 million were approved Saturday, Sunday and Monday. These payments will be mailed to businesses this week.
Of the 2,600 business claims processed the past three days, many were from small businesses while several represented a second or third payment that was expedited due to cash flow issues. Others were new claims now eligible for payment due to BP's expanded covered claims criteria.
Under the new procedures, BP is encouraging businesses with urgent cash flow needs to contact their adjuster immediately, or they can call 800-573-8249 and tell the operator that they have an urgent cash flow need. The claim will be referred to the Immediate Action Claims Team, which is dedicated to evaluating these types of claims and expediting payments.
The new procedures include paying claims from tourist businesses not directly linked to the natural resource but located in close proximity to the affected tourist resource, such as an oiled beach; simplifying documentation requirements; easing requirements for start-up businesses to prove a loss; and increasing the delegation of authority for adjusters.
To ease documentation requirements, BP will accept tax returns from 2009, and in recognition of cash flow issues, pay the equivalent of roughly three months of losses. If no 2009 tax return exists because of an extension, BP will use the 2008 return for emergency payments. Businesses can get specific criteria from their claims adjuster.
For start-ups, BP will accept proof of business activity which can include such things as bank statements, asset purchase verification and Articles of Association. Increasing the delegation of authority for its adjusters will speed up payments as larger claims will be approved without having to go through the centralized Claims Authorization Team.
The expedited business claims process applies to any size company but will be especially helpful for small and medium size companies who may not have the financial resources needed to meet their short-term cash needs for payroll and other operating expenses.
BP also announced that it will defer decisions on some business and individual claims to Ken Feinberg who will take over the claims process with the establishment of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) later this month. With regard to claims that are being referred to GCCF, Willis said that there are some tough decisions to be made on a variety of claims.
"There are several thousand claims not clearly within the guidelines of the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) which guides BP's claims process," Willis said. "Ken and his team are the claims experts. It is right that they make the decisions on these claims."
BP offered the following examples of businesses it is currently including in the claims process and those that are being deferred to the GCCF. This is not an exhaustive listing of businesses but rather is offered for illustrative purposes only. Specific payment decisions on each claim will made by a professional adjuster based on documentation.
Deferred to Feinberg and GCCF
BP has paid out $277 million in claim payments and written more than 93,000 checks to individuals and businesses since it made its first payment on May 3. BP has 37 claims offices across the Gulf Coast and a 1,650 member claims team.
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