During the month of September, rig workers impacted the federal moratorium on deepwater drilling will be able to apply for financial assistance grants ranging from $3,000 to $30,000. BP, which managed the Deepwater Horizon Rig that exploded on April 20, leaking massive amounts of crude into the Gulf of Mexico and ultimately leading to the federal drilling ban, has ponied up $100 million to bankroll the grant program.
President Barack Obama originally asked BP to create the program and the oil giant selected the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, a clearinghouse for philanthropists to oversee the process. During a press conference earlier this week, BRAF President John Davies said a new sub-group called the Gulf Restoration and Protection Foundation will be heading up the program and is in the process of choosing a third party administrator that will actually review applications and determine grant amounts.
Davies said he expects about 9,000 rig workers to qualify for grants and as many as 20,000 queries to come through his office. Even though applications will be taken beginning Sept. 1 through Sept. 30, the grants will be based on need, not on salaries or income — and definitely not on a first-come, first-serve basis. “There is no benefit to speed here,” he said.
As for who qualifies, the grant program is limited to people who were working on deepwater rigs on May 6, which is when the federal moratorium on drilling took effect. All grant monies are expected to be mailed out to eligible applicants no later than Oct. 30. The application hotline is (866) 577-8141 and information is available at www.RigReliefGrants.org. For now, the phone number has a recorded message, but will be manned live beginning Sept. 1.
As rig workers wait for the Sept. 1 start date, they can begin gathering documents, including recent pay stubs, verification of employment, W-2 and 1099 forms, recent income tax returns, information on spousal income, insurance proceeds, unemployment payments, details on any other money received from assistance funds and a list of your average monthly expenses for the three months prior to the May 6 shutdown. Interest in the program is expected to be intense. “We could run out of money pretty quickly,” Davies said.
Davies said he had received no indication of a commitment from the oil giant, which did not send a representative to this week’s press conference, to put up more money if the need outstrips the initial grant program. About $93.5 million of the $100 million fund will go to rig workers. An administrative fee of $6.5 million will be doled out to the GCRPF and the third party administrator it selects.