Alabama is launching a statewide initiative to get small business owners to file claims against BP (Stock Quote: BP PLC) for damages incurred from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Gov. Bob Riley announced yesterday that more than 200 National Guard troops will visit business owners affected by the spill in order to expedite the claims process.

"Our problem is we can't get people to come in and apply," Riley said at a press conference in Robertsdale, Ala. according to  Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency will assist the troops in their on-foot efforts to review, prepare and file claims with business owners. 

BP has promised to pay for any legitimate damages resulting from the oil spill, but the company can’t make good on claims that haven’t been filed. According to Riley, only 74 of the 1,000 charter boats in Alabama have filed claims with BP. This is because many small business owners feel the process is more trouble than it is worth.

Alabama is not the only state to express dissatisfaction with the current claims process.  Last week, Louisiana officials formally requested access to BP’s claim database in an effort to expedite the process.  While BP denied this request, the company is on board with Alabama’s initiative. The newly-created community action teams have received training from the company in claims certification.

TheStreet Recommends

"This will give us an extra set of eyes that when they look at an application," Riley said. “They can determine about whether or not they're legitimate or not.”

BP has agreed to accept or deny claims within 48 hours of receiving them from the teams. The initiative begins today in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Bayou La Batre and Dauphin Island.

How else can a small business make up for oil spill losses? Read MainStreet’s article on how small businesses insure against disaster.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at