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To many who know Feinberg, the move was a potential boon for the shrimpers, commercial fishers and others whose livelihoods have been put into long-term jeopardy by the still-gushing BP oil well.
"The victims can be confident that real help is on the way with someone as fair, diligent and sympathetic as Ken Feinberg running this fund," said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, in a statement released after Obama's announcement. "He did an amazingly good job in New York for the families of those lost on Sept. 11 and received plaudits from all sides. I believe when Feinberg completes his mission here, the people in the Gulf will feel the same way."
Feinberg was not universally heralded by victims' families in New York, facing his harshest criticism at the beginning of the program, authorized by the U.S. Congress not long after the attack. In order to receive compensation, fund recipients lost their rights to sue the involved airlines or other U.S. entities.
Charles Wolf, whose wife died in the World Trade Center, said Feinberg changed both his personal demeanor and some of the program rules in response to criticisms. Initially, Wolf said he and other grief-stricken family members found Feinberg's approach to them cold and lawyerly, but that changed as he began to implement the program.
"He turned it into a fair exercise with compassion to it," Wolf said. "I have faith in him, I really do."