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Speed of oil spill payments increased

NEW ORLEANS — Victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill should start getting bigger payments faster, the administrator of the fund set up to help them said Saturday.

Kenneth Feinberg said he was responding to criticism from residents and businesses.

"Over the past few weeks, I have heard from the people of the Gulf, elected officials, and others that payments remain too slow and not generous enough," Feinberg said in a statement. "I am implementing new procedures that will make this program more efficient, more accelerated and more generous."

Anthony Kennon, mayor of hard-hit Orange Beach, Ala., said he wasn't moved by the news. He said people in his community need action now, and they don't feel they are getting it. He said he doesn't believe Feinberg has truly been addressing their main concern about wanting a seat at the decision-making table.

"They feel despair, they feel helpless, they feel abandoned," Kennon said. "These are all mom-and-pop shops. We are devastated. I've got people knocking on my door saying, 'I'm leaving, great knowing you mayor. I'm losing my business, my home."'

Because tourism has taken such a hit in his community, doctors who rely on walk-in tourists for patients in the summer have seen business plummet. But, Kennon said, those doctors' claims to the compensation fund are being summarily denied because of the type of industry they are in.

"I am having a hard time understanding how he is our advocate," Kennon said of Feinberg.

According to Feinberg, claims from now on will be sorted by industry to allow those reviewing the claims to apply a more specific, uniform set of standards when deciding how much a person or business will be paid. Feinberg did not provide details, and it was unclear if the new processing guidelines would benefit people in industries not directly tied to the ocean or simply make payments to victims in industries that are being compensated more consistent.

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