Buzzfeed News first reported last night that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved only 3 percent of requests for funeral assistance they've received from Puerto Rican families.
In response to their report, FEMA director Brock Long directed Buzzfeed to the agency's requirements for qualifying for assistance and this is going to seem very familiar.
In response to an earlier letter from [Senator Elizabeth Warren], Brock Long, director of FEMA, wrote on Aug. 14 that as of July 30, his agency had received 2,431 requests for funeral assistance from Puerto Ricans related to the hurricane — they approved just 75 of them, meaning 97% have either been rejected or have not received a decision almost a year after Maria hit the island. [...]
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.
In a way, it makes sense that FEMA only approved funeral assistance for 75 families because that was close to the official death toll until the governor of Puerto Rico commissioned a study to determine the real death toll which now stands at nearly 3,000.
It is not a coincidence that FEMA's standards for funeral assistance mirror the standards that led to a death toll that was astronomically wrong.
These impossible standards should have been lifted in Puerto Rico where they're clearly not practical. I understand that would make the program more vulnerable to abuse, but that's a poor excuse for these insulting approval numbers. Furthermore, the fact that FEMA only received 2,431 requests for assistance, which is far fewer than the official death toll of nearly 3,000, suggests there were no significant attempts to defraud the system.
I'm sure the Trump regime could have made it happen if they wanted to, but they didn't want to.