Hundreds of fishermen who were put out of work by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are now relying on compensation from BP, but the checks are late, and the oil company is giving no hints about when payments might resume.
Jeffrey Briet, a lawyer for 500 fishermen from Louisiana and Mississippi, told WDSU.com that there's no sign of checks that were due on Wednesday. BP has apparently changed the payment process without warning.
"Not only did they spring it on us that the process has changed, but the people I've been dealing with for six weeks who've done a good job said, 'We don't know what the process is going to be. We're not authorized to talk to you about it. Someone from BP will contact you,'" he said.
Meanwhile, the money that has already been paid out has helped at least one Gulf state weather the economic impacts of the spill, but other states haven't received their share.
BP has paid out over $79 million in Louisiana but far less in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas, despite the fact that Louisiana only accounts for a quarter of the total claims, according to American Public Media.
BP says that Louisiana deserves the cash before other states because it was hit first, and because Louisiana claimants filed promptly after the spill first occurred.
These payouts — in addition to the high-paying short-term jobs created by the spill — may be the reason why Louisiana's economy seems to be doing okay. The LA Times reports that cash flow from BP may have largely offset the money lost by those who were affected financially by the spill.
The long-term outlook, however, is not nearly as rosy. Seafood worker Mike Berthelot voiced what is likely a common concern among Gulf residents.
“This is the end of our way of making a living. BP will pay people for a year or two, and then they'll go away. Then what?"