WHITE HOUSE ESTABLISHES CLAIMS FACILITY TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES COPE WITH EFFECTS OF OIL SPILL

NEW PROGRAM IS CRUCIAL FIRST STEP TO HELP SMALL RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINORITY OWNED BUSINESSES AND INDIVIDUALS

The White House has announced that a new, independent claims process will be created with the mandate to be fairer, faster, and more transparent in paying damage claims by individuals and businesses affected by the massive oil spill currently hitting the Gulf Coast. This fund was established after the NAACP had issued an emergency resolution at the May meeting of the National Board of Directors expressing concern that whenever a disaster strikes like hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we must remain vigilant to expose and correct disparate treatment of African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities and ensure that benefits are provided equally and fairly through the process.

In order to ensure fairness, the White House has announced that the new claims facility will develop standards for recoverable claims that will be published and that the facility is designed for claims of individuals and businesses who have been harmed by the oil spill; local, state, tribal, and federal government claims will continue to be handled directly by British Petroleum. Furthermore, dissatisfied claimants maintain all current rights under law, including the right to go to court or to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Under the new agreement, British Petroleum will also contribute $100 million to a foundation to support unemployed oil rig workers. The Obama Administration, along with the NAACP, is also promoting a proposal which must be approved by Congress, which would create a new program of unemployment assistance, modeled after the Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program, to provide benefits to workers who lose their jobs as a result of an oil spill of national significance, such as this one.

The Administration also intends to hold British Petroleum to its previous commitment to spending $500 million for the ten-year Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to improve understanding of the impacts of and ways to mitigate oil and gas pollution. As a part of this initiative, BP will work with governors and state and local environmental and health authorities to design the long-term monitoring program to assure the environmental and public health of the Gulf Region.

Ensuring that claims by those affected most by the oil spill are handled fairly and correctly is of utmost importance to the NAACP: the impacted areas are home to many African Americans and other minorities who, both individually and as business owners, are seeing their livelihoods destroyed. As such, the NAACP remains committed to helping our brothers and sisters in the Gulf Coast by ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and is equitably compensated for their losses.

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