Although Long did not give a specific reason in his letter for the rejections, he pointed to FEMA’s requirements for funeral assistance. To qualify, Puerto Ricans had to provide a death certificate or letter from a government official “that clearly indicates the death was attributed to the emergency or disaster, either directly or indirectly,” Long wrote in the letter obtained by BuzzFeed News, which he wrote on behalf of FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services.
But getting that information was impossible for many families because, as the Puerto Rican government recently admitted, officials were not counting hurricane-related deaths correctly.
Two weeks ago Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló admitted that authorities vastly undercounted how many people were dying because of the hurricane, partly because they failed to provide clear instructions to doctors and funeral homes on how death certificates should be filled out.
President Trump called the response to Hurricane Maria, which killed around 3,000 people, ‘one of the best’.