5.1 earthquake caused $2.6 million in damage in Brea, Fullerton and La Habra

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The cost to repair damage in the three cities hardest hit by last Friday's 5.1 earthquake and its aftershocks won't add up enough to qualify for federal disaster assistance, authorities said Thursday.

The estimate for damages to public property in La Habra, Fullerton and Brea totaled about $824,000.

For private property, the total of reported damages was $1.75 million – about $250,000 in Brea, $1 million in Fullerton and $503,000 in La Habra. 

Brea's toll of about $250,000 for public property include repairs at Fanning Elementary School. In Fullerton, several water mains burst, accounting for most of the $500,000 in public property damage. Broken water mains also cost La Habra most of its $73,500 in public property damage.

Related: 5.1 earthquake strikes near La Habra, Calif. (updated)

Initially, local officials looked into whether Orange County might qualify for federal help

Brea's Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Anna Cave, said the actual costs are "nowhere close" to qualifying.

Richard Sylves, professor emeritus at the University of Delaware and an expert in disaster assistance, said Orange County would have to have sustained damages totaling at least $3.50 per capita to qualify for federal relief – meaning well over $10 million.

"Populous states like California and Texas have complained about this funding formula," Sylves said.

The formula can hurt small towns in crowded counties that have to hit a high threshold for assistance. Such cities can appeal their cases, and often win aid, he said.

In this case, local officials seem to think local government can mostly handle the necessary repairs to public property.

Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz said his city and others are working with Orange County and the State of California to identify aid programs that might be available for homeowners, renters, and business owners who face costly repairs. 

"Our focus right now is on the loan programs that might be available, whether it's state or federal," Felz said. "No interest or low-interest loans."

County officials expect to have more information in the coming days.

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