Sending Office: Honorable Nydia M. Velazquez
House co-sponsors (38): Barragán, Blumenauer,
Bordallo, Boyle, Brady (PA), Capuano, Cárdenas, Clarke, DeLauro, Demings, Ellison, Engel, Espaillat, Gallego, Grijalva, Gutiérrez, Hanabusa, Huffman, Jackson Lee, Jayapal, Kaptur, Khanna, Lawson, C. Maloney, McGovern, Napolitano, Pingree,
Pocan, Serrano, Sires, Soto, Takano, Thompson (MS), Tsongas, Wasserman Schultz, Welch, Wilson (FL), Yarmuth
Senate co-sponsors (8): Blumenthal, Carper, Feinstein, Gillibrand, Markey, Menendez, Nelson, Warren
On May 29, a group of independent researchers from Harvard University released a report estimating the number of deaths caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. It uncovered a sobering
figure of 4,654 lives that could have been lost as a result of the storm, many of them from delayed medical care. This is staggeringly higher than the official estimates. While much debate has ensued over the validity of the number, the truth is we may never
know the exact number of all lives lost. Amid a new hurricane season, we need to ensure transparency and oversight.
That’s why Senator Kamala Harris and I introduced the Counting Our Unexpected Natural Tragedies’ Victims Act, or the COUNT Victims Act (H.R. 6048) in our respective chambers. Our legislation would direct FEMA to contract with the National Academy of Medicine
to conduct a study that addresses approaches to quantifying mortality and significant morbidity among populations affected by major disasters, and include policy recommendations for the future. Proper attribution of mortality is important because it offers
information to grieving families, makes families eligible for federal disaster programs, and affords governments with valuable lessons that can help mitigate the impact of future disasters.
With the study called for in our legislation, we will finally have nationwide best practices guidance from an independent agency for how governments should evaluate mortality and morbidity following a natural disaster. The uncertainty that followed Hurricane
Maria should never happen again.
For more information, or to co-sponsor the COUNT Victims Act, please contact Matt Gómez in my office at
Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress
 Kishore et al. (2018, May 29). Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Retrieved June 06, 2018, from
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0