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Decision and Infrastructure Sciences Division

County High-Level Economic Recovery & Resilience Index

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Argonne and FEMA created the County High-Level Economic Recovery and Resilience Index (CHERRI) to assist governments and other service providers with identifying and prioritizing support for communities that are especially vulnerable to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented ongoing impacts to the public health and financial stability of individuals and families, particularly those in socially vulnerable populations. It has also impacted the economic health of state, local, tribal, and territorial governments. As governments across the country face budget shortfalls and other impacts, data-based decision-making tools are needed to assist stakeholders in building plans to support an equitable economic recovery.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social vulnerability is defined as a number of factors, including poverty, lack of access to transportation, and crowded housing [which] may weaken a community’s ability to prevent human suffering and financial loss in a disaster.” Contributing factors to social vulnerability, such as poverty, lack of transportation, lack of broadband access, and crowded housing may weaken a community’s ability to prevent illness, or may create unmanageable financial burdens for these vulnerable communities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, pre-existing social vulnerabilities have been combined with significant job losses and healthcare disparities to create increased hardships for these vulnerable populations. These growing hardships have also increased the degree to which these populations rely on government assistance to provide necessities such as housing, food, and healthcare. At the same time, employment losses and other pandemic stresses have significantly reduced local and state government revenues, primarily those based on certain types of revenue sources. These converging community and pandemic-induced challenges have the potential to magnify overall strain on public finances and services.

Through engagement with federal agencies, national associations, and other partners Argonne and FEMA identified the need for a tool to help identify specific communities that face significant economic recovery challenges. With the variety of different — and constantly changing — impacts from COVID-19, it became clear that a holistic approach would be necessary to evaluate fiscal risk for communities. Argonne and FEMA specifically selected the CHERRI data sources in order to provide a clear picture of both the current impacts of COVID-19 on revenue generation and the underlying vulnerabilities of a community that may lead to a larger demand for public services and recovery assistance.

The CHERRI is an assessment tool that is designed to:

  • Provide a quick snapshot of counties that are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 induced economic impacts through use of qualitative evaluation of quantitative data. This information can be used to inform recovery planning and resource allocation decision making.
  • Leverage existing COVID-19 economic impact analyses, which incorporate data related to employment, consumption and housing factors to estimate the effects on households, businesses, and local government finances.
  • Consider baseline social vulnerability by integrating CDC Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) factors, which assess socioeconomic and demographic factors at the county level.


Argonne National Laboratory’s work is supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, via interagency agreement through U.S. Department of Energy contract DE-AC02-06CH11357. FEMA does not endorse any nongovernment entities, organizations, or services.