FEMA Request for Comment on Cost of Assistance Estimates in the Disaster Declaration Process for the Public Assistance Program

December 15, 2020

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is proposing a rule to substantively revise the “Estimated cost of the assistance” disaster declaration factor that FEMA uses to review a governor's request for a major disaster under the Public Assistance Program. FEMA’s Public Assistance Program provides supplemental grants to state, tribal, territorial, and local governments, and private nonprofit organizations so that communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies. An overview of Public Assistance is at fema.gov/assistance/public/program-overview#eligibility This is a great opportunity for the Aging & Disability Networks to provide their comments to FEMA.

FEMA proposes revisions to this factor to more accurately assess the disaster response capabilities of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories (States), and to respond to the direction of Congress in the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, which requires FEMA to review its disaster declaration factors and update them via rulemaking, as appropriate. FEMA proposes to increase the per capita indicator to account for increases in inflation from 1986 to 1999, and to adjust the individual states' indicators by their total taxable resources (TTR). These changes will allow FEMA to more accurately gauge a state's fiscal capacity by accounting for taxable resources other than the state's population, such as business income, undistributed corporate profits, and out-of-state residents. 

FEMA also proposes to use the U.S. Census Bureau's annual population estimates produced under the Population Estimates Program (PEP) instead of the decennial census population data produced every 10 years, which FEMA currently uses to calculate each state's Cost of Assistance (COA) Indicator. By increasing the per capita indicator and the minimum threshold, and using more current population data, FEMA's recommendation to the President will be a better informed and more accurate assessment of whether an incident exceeds state capabilities. The resulting reduction in disaster declarations for smaller incidents will allow FEMA to better focus its efforts and resources on larger disasters without the complications of reallocating resources from multiple smaller-scale commitments. Collectively, these changes would provide a better distribution of responsibilities between the states and the federal government, and will incentivize states to invest more in response, recovery, and mitigation capabilities, and lead to a more resilient and prepared nation.

See more details in the Federal Register notice.

Comments must be submitted by February 12, 2021.


Last modified on 12/15/2020


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