Trump officials denied 97 percent of Puerto Rico funeral aid requests


Trump claims his administration's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was a 'success,' but the numbers tell a very different story.

Under Trump's leadership, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved just 75 out of 2,431 requests for funeral assistance stemming from Hurricane Maria-related deaths in Puerto Rico, according to newly released correspondence.

In a letter to Senate Democrats, the agency said just 3 percent of requests had been approved as of the end of July, while the remaining 97 percent have either been rejected or have not received a decision nearly a year after the deadly hurricane devastated the island.

The letter is dated Aug. 14 but was only made public Tuesday — the same day Trump touted his administration's handling of the disaster as an "incredible, unsung success."

According to Buzzfeed News, which first reported on the correspondence, FEMA's funeral aid is meant to cover funeral expenses "including caskets, mortuary services, burial plots, and cremations."

Brock Long, director of FEMA, did not specify why the agency had denied nearly all of the requests for assistance but said that in order to qualify, applicants must provide evidence "that clearly indicates the death was attributed to the emergency or disaster, either directly or indirectly."

However, that evidence hasn't been available to most families who lost loved ones in Hurricane Maria due to the government's failure to accurately count hurricane-related deaths.

Last month, nearly a year after the storm hit, the official death toll in Puerto Rico was updated from 64 to an estimated 2,975 people.

But even with the updated death count, many families still won't have death certificates or other confirmation from the government because the count is just an estimate, Buzzfeed reports.

This is just the latest blow for Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Despite Trump's claim that his administration's response was an "unsung success," hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico were left without power for months after the storm hit, causing the death toll to grow dramatically due to accidents and lack of access to food, clean water, and medical care.

At the same time, Trump withheld critical disaster aid from the island, including 30 million FEMA meals that were never even delivered.

And now, after going through so much, Puerto Ricans are being denied assistance to help with the costs of burying loved ones whose deaths weren't even acknowledged for nearly a year.

If Trump considers this a "success," it's hard to imagine what qualifies as a failure in his eyes.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.