Disaster Damage Thresholds (Per capita impact indicator)

posted Jan 15, 2015, 2:59 PM by Jake unguren   [ updated Oct 6, 2016, 3:10 PM ]
How do local communities obtain federal disaster recovery funds from FEMA for permanent restoration of infrastructure after a major disaster? Federal Regulations found in 44 CFR §206.48 (a) [1] lists the factors that are considered when evaluating a Governor's request for disaster assistance under the Stafford Act. One factor is the estimated cost of the assistance as described below:

FEMA uses a statewide per capita impact indicator of $1.43 (FFY17) per person ($3,952,355.55 in Utah) as an indicator that the disaster incident is of such size that it might warrant federal assistance under the FEMA Public Assistance Program.  In other words, the total damage estimate from a single incident would likely need to exceed this amount before the State could request federal disaster assistance under FEMA's Public Assistance (PA) Program. (The PA program provides supplemental grants for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and permanent restoration of infrastructure after Major Disaster Declarations.) 

Statewide Indicator: $1.43  x  2,763,885 = $3,952,355.55
(per capita impact indicator  x  2010 census population)

Each county must meet their own per capita impact indicator of $3.61 (FFY17) per person before they can contribute to Utah’s Statewide indicatorAlso, if a Major Disaster is declared in Utah, only counties with damages that exceed their indicator can be designated to receive PA funding. A county simply meeting its own impact indicator does not necessarily warrant FEMA PA assistance, as the Statewide indicator ($3,952,355) usually must be met before any PA assistance will be provided. (Example: XYZ County is the only county who received damage during a recent incident, with damages of nearly $1.8 million, which significantly exceeds their threshold of $658,000. Even though they met their own indicator, they are still short of the $3,952,355 Statewide indicator, and would likely be ineligible for FEMA PA assistance.Click here [2] to view all county thresholds.

Each year on October 1, FEMA adjusts the per capita impact indicator to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers published by the Department of Labor, meaning the amounts shown above could increase again on October 1, 2017.

Only eligible damages to public facilities, infrastructure, and historical properties can be considered when calculating the cost estimate. Damages covered by insurance must first be deducted from the cost estimate. Private property damages are not considered.


Utah's indicator has increased by more than 50% since 2004. Click here [4] for historical indicators from FFY04 to FFY17.

Utah DEM also wrote this August 2016 Article [5] about the likelihood that the threshold will increase significantly in the near future, and will likely exceed $5 million by 2021. The article also discusses that “the indicator is artificially low” according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and if their recommendations are implemented, Utah’s indicator would dramatically rise, possibly to over $12 million.


This information updated on: October 3, 2016
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