PENSACOLA — The people of the Florida Panhandle whose livelihoods depend on a Gulf of Mexico sullied by the spewing oil well trickle into a BP claims office, hoping to leave with a $5,000 check to help them get through the month.
The massive oil spill has spooked tourists and left those who live off the Gulf without open waters to fish or boats to sell, rent or fix. In turn, BP has opened 25 claims offices from New Orleans to Key West and, as of Sunday, paid $48 million to about 18,000 people for their economic losses.
The proud, independent coastal workers find it difficult to take money from the company whose disaster has left them grounded, watching and waiting for the worst of the oil to come ashore.
“It’s a strange thing,” said Paul Galusha, who fixes electronics systems on boats. “I’ve been self-employed for 12 years. I work hard. . . . I don’t ask for [money], but I’m broke.”