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BP agrees to speed claims, government says

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • BP says it will start judging claims based on expected upcoming expenses
  • It had been waiting for books to close on previous month
  • BP had been target of criticism from people seeking reimbursement for losses
  • Decision followed meeting between BP and administration officials

(CNN) -- BP has pledged to speed up its payments to businesses that have suffered losses from the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, an Obama administration official said Thursday.

The oil company has agreed to look at upcoming expenses of a business filing a claim rather than a company's expenses for a previous month, said Tracy Wareing, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"BP recognized that their previous approach of waiting until basically after the books have closed for each month to calculate losses will not work," Wareing said. "It won't get dollars out quickly enough for the businesses that are struggling on the ground."

BP's handling of claims related to the largest oil spill in U.S. history has come under intense criticism from idled workers in the Gulf states and from members of Congress. BP is responsible for paying for the cleanup under federal law and has said it will pay "all legitimate claims" for damages that result from the disaster.

The company has also agreed to take workers' seasonal earnings into account in paying claims, said Wareing, an adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

For many affected businesses, like shrimp boats, "Workers make the majority of their money in a particular season in a short span of time," she said. "We indicated to BP that we wanted to make sure they are not simply providing a month's wages calculated by dividing the annual salary from last year by 12."

The announcement follows a Wednesday meeting between company officials and representatives of the Obama administration. Wareing said another meeting was scheduled for Thursday with the BP contractor who handles claims.