Nightly News   |  August 20, 2010

Gulf business owners say BP skimping on payments

Business owners from Orange Beach, Alabama say BP isn't paying claims as promised--and in some cases, punishing some because they live too far from shore. NBC’s Senior Investigative Correspondent Lisa Myers reports.

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>>> today is the four-month anniversary of the fire that led to the biggest oil disaster in history. as we have been reporting here this week, several new research reports say there is still, of course, a huge oil plume deep in the gulf, one that could be there for a long time. you will recall bp has promised it won't skimp on compensation to individuals and businesses that have suffered losses and damage caused by the spill. already, bp says it's paid out $395 million in claims. but when we went to one gulf coast community, orange beach , alabama, where most of the usual summer visitors have stayed away this year, we heard a different story. some very troubling accounts, in fact. the report from our senior investigative correspondent, lisa myers .

>> reporter: this beach town is usually packed with tourists this time of year. for 16 years, many of them came to sand dollar . built by jeff hardy 's parents, the business has survived hurricanes and recessions. he says it may not survive the oil. sales are off 50%, forcing lay-offs and the closing of one store.

>> this was a dream of ours that we have made come to life through hard work, sweat and tears. bp is on the verge of taking all that away from us.

>> reporter: hardy said he's repeatedly filed paperwork with bp and claimed losses of $825,000 through july. how much has bp paid him? $5,000.

>> like i told them, my back's up against the wall.

>> reporter: he says in july, two claims adjustors working for bp told him he qualified for about $486,000. then a few days later that a check for $152,000 was being cut. then that he doesn't qualify for help because he's more than a mile from the beach -- one and a half miles to be exact.

>> bp has got to make things right.

>> reporter: bp ads do not play well in this town anymore.

>> how they are going to make us whole. how they are not going to walk off and leave us. all these promises they are making that they are not living up to any of these.

>> reporter: the mayor says the town is devastated with tourism off 70% this month.

>> the majority of our businesses are at risk of going under.

>> reporter: a mile and a half from hardy's business, the bizarre bazaar gift shop has already closed.

>> we weren't looking for a lot of money, just something to keep our doors open.

>> reporter: down the road, orange beach weddings is closing its office space . the twin sisters who plan destination weddings on the beach say they can no longer pay the rent. bp paid them $21,000 but they say they may not make it past october.

>> i guess they want us to go away. this is our home? we're just supposed to move away and start over?

>> reporter: bp says it sent checks to more than 45,000 individuals and businesses and that these and other claims are now up to ken feinberg. a bp spokesman says the company is proud of its efforts but knows the process has not been perfect. lisa myers , nbc news, washington.