U.S. President Barack Obama says the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is over, but his efforts to help Gulf residents hurt by it are not. The president spoke Saturday during a weekend trip to the Gulf resort town of Panama City Beach, Florida.
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President Obama said his fifth visit to the region since the April 20 BP oil disaster was intended to show that his administration remains committed to helping Gulf residents recover. "Today, the well is capped. Oil is no longer flowing into the Gulf. It has not been flowing for a month, and I am here to tell you that our job is not finished, and we are not going anywhere until it is," he said.
The Gulf coast economy depends heavily on tourism, which has suffered heavy losses since the spill. Very few of Florida's beaches were affected by the oil, but potential visitors have stayed away after seeing pictures of oil slicks and tarballs on other beaches.
Mr. Obama said he, his wife Michelle, younger daughter Sasha and their dog Bo are spending the weekend at the Gulf beaches, to encourage other Americans to do the same. "Beaches all along the Gulf coast are clean, they are safe, and they are open for business. That is one of the reasons Michelle, Sasha and I are here," he said.
Earlier Saturday, the president and first lady discussed the situation with the governor of Florida, the secretary of the Navy, the mayors of two local cities and several business people.
The manager of three hotels told the president she has lost more than $191,000 in room revenue due to the spill. The owners of a restaurant and a fishing boat said they have also suffered losses.
Mr. Obama acknowledged that Gulf coast residents are having to wait too long for payments of claims from a $20 billion BP fund set up to help those who have suffered losses from the spill. He promised to speed things along. "Any delay by BP or those managing the new funds are unacceptable, and I will keep pushing to get these funds expedited," he said.
The explosion on a BP-leased oil rig off the coast of the state of Louisiana killed eleven workers and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
After returning to Washington late Sunday, the president will visit five states in three days, discussing the economy and campaigning for Democrats running for Congress and state governor.
Then, on Thursday, the first family will leave for a ten-day vacation on the resort island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.