WBRZ News

Officials surprised by low number of BP fund applicants

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Posted: Sep 14, 2010 5:54 PM by Sarah Rosario, Heather Harel
Updated: Sep 14, 2010 6:18 PM
Source: WBRZ

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Topics: BP, grant, money, applicants, funds, oil, rig, workers, moratorium funds, BRAF

Less than a quarter of oil rig workers who've been without a job due to the moratorium on deep water drilling have applied to get their cut of a check from BP.

Earlier this summer, the oil giant gave the Baton Rouge Area Foundation $100 million in grant funds to help financially burdened oil rig workers. Since the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion and the ban on deep water drilling, more than 20,000 oil rig workers have claimed to be without a job. That's when BP stepped in to help. So far, only 220 oil rig workers have applied, a number significantly lower than the 8,000 BRAF CEO Jeff Davies said he was expecting.

"I'm very surprised at the response. We've had a lighter response than we would have expected, which is exceptionally good news," said Davies.

Davies called it good news because he said it proves the oil rig workers the money was allotted for are really not that strapped for cash. The reason there aren't many applicants is because although oil rig workers may not be working, they're still getting paid, according to experts. Oil companies want to keep their highly qualified, valuable workers.

Don Briggs, Louisiana's Oil and Gas Association President, said the reason all the workers are still working on the rigs is because they're all under contract. Briggs said in his opinion, the support workers are the ones who really need the funds.

"For every man working on a rig, and there's about 150 working on the rig, there are eight ancillary jobs in support that depend on the industry," said Briggs.

That's something Davies said he agrees with. Since the present grant application process is so low, once the funds are handed out to oil rig workers, BRAF will give the remaining funds to support workers of deep water rigs in a grant application process that will begin next spring. It is estimated 20,000 to 30,000 will be eligible to apply, but some are skeptical of its abundance.

"How far does that go? With 30,000 people, 20,000 or even 10,000, I mean, what we need to do is go back to work," said Briggs.

The deep water drilling moratorium doesn't end for another two and half months. The grant money is not income replacement, but instead, BP's way of aiding those workers with financial hardship. The application process for oil rig workers is open till the end of the month. Grant checks will be handed out in October.

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