Tom Foreman | BIO
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/06/21/gulf.oil.disaster/c1main.JPG caption="Foreman: Let people know that our friends on the Gulf need their help…not just in terms of donations for the communities that have already been hit, but in terms of business for those that are still ahead of the gooey tide." width=300 height=169]
Reporter's Note: President Obama continues to press for BP to pay for all the damage from the spill on the Gulf; just as I continue to press on in my quest to write a letter every single day to the White House.
Dear Mr. President,
I will never cease to be amazed by the determination and resourcefulness of my fellow Americans. Maybe I shouldn’t be so impressed, because after all, many times it is merely a type of survival instinct I suppose, but nonetheless it strikes me as somehow heroic.
As I write this I am sitting in the CNN Express near Pensacola Beach where we spent the afternoon talking with some local business folks who are being absolutely hammered by oil hysterics. I say hysterics, because there are precious few signs of anything like oil near here. Sure, I’ve seen a few booms floating in the water, but I suspect that any tourist who was not told about the oil spill, who just wandered down here would be delighted… as they have been for generations… by the sparkling blue waters, the shiny white beaches, and the glorious sunshine. Seriously, I’ve been coming to this beach for decades and it looks just as beautiful and inviting right now as ever. But the tourists are staying away in droves.
Some of that, I am sure, is our fault… meaning, the media… because we have sounded the alarm over each tar ball and rainbow sheen no matter how scattered. In fairness, that is part of out job: People might be duly furious if we did not keep careful track of when, and where, and how the oily tide is progressing. On the other hand, our reports have fueled fear among tourists, leaving hotels, restaurants, and beach rentals empty as a result. One economic researcher with the University of Central Florida believes this could cost the coastal counties almost 200-thousand jobs, and close to 11-billion dollars in trade.
Still, to get back to my earlier point, people here are fighting back. Through innovative loan programs, local initiatives to delay debt payments, and concerted efforts to patronize their own local businesses, they are doing all they can minimize the damage from this rapidly retreating tide of visitors. The plan is really quite simple: Each week that they can keep any given business alive, buys time for the oil mania to subside, and time for the tourists to come back. And they seem to be doing it with remarkably good humor.
So, if you get a moment, you might want to mention that to the nation. Let people know that our friends on the Gulf need their help…not just in terms of donations for the communities that have already been hit, but in terms of business for those that are still ahead of the gooey tide. I can tell you firsthand…the beach here is absolutely beautiful right now, not at all crowded, and if I weren’t working, trust me, I’d call my wife and kids and say come on down.
Call if you get a moment. I’ll be busy all week, but I can make some time if you need some one the scene assessments.
CNN Wire Staff
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The man overseeing a $20 billion claims fund told CNN on Monday he wants the claims payment process accelerated and its transparency increased.
"We've got to get the claims out quicker, we've got to get them out with more transparency so claimants understand the status of their claim, and we've got to ease the burden on these folks in the Gulf," Kenneth Feinberg said.
He said that emergency payments need to go out "with less corroboration than you would if you're giving a lump sum payment that is the total compensation. For the emergency payments, we've got to err on the side of the plaintiff."
BP said in a statement Monday that costs from the disaster now total about $2 billion, including the cost of the response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs.
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