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Senate Bill Would Require FEMA To Develop Uniform System For Determining Disaster Death Tolls

This satellite image showed Hurricane Maria as it passed over Puerto Rico on Sept. 21, 2017.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A big discrepancy between Puerto Rico’s official death toll from Hurricane Maria and lives lost according to Harvard researchers has prompted U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) and other Democrats to call for new standards in counting storm deaths.

Nelson is co-sponsoring legislation that would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop a more accurate system of assessing deaths caused by a disaster.

He made this pitch to the U.S. Senate this week.

“Not only will this bill help to provide some semblance of closure, but it will also ensure that the areas that are hardest hit by these disasters are getting all of the disaster assistance that they are entitled to,” said Nelson, adding  that includes helping poor and uninsured Americans with burial costs.

The official death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is 64.  A New England Journal of Medicine study estimates the number killed by the storm and its aftermath to be more than 4,600.

Contact reporter Cyd Hoskinson at, 904-358-6351 and on Twitter @cydwjctnews.

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit .

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.