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Blunt, Colleagues Urge Administration to End Proposal that Threatens to Eliminate Metro Area Status

March 22, 2021

WASHINGTON – Last week, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) joined U.S. Senators John Boozman (Ark.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), and 22 other colleagues in sending a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Rob Fairweather urging the agency to abandon plans to change the current definition of a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). OMB has proposed doubling the minimum requirement for a MSA from 50,000 to 100,000. This recommendation would eliminate MSA status for more than 140 cities across the country, including St. Joseph, Jefferson City, Cape Girardeau, and Joplin in Missouri, and could negatively impact federal funding in these communities.

“Though the consideration of nonstatistical uses is not the priority of OMB, ignoring the unwritten effects that MSA’s have on the decision-making process of our government would cause major disruptions with grant and entitlement programs, medical reimbursements, economic development, housing initiatives, and more. The MSA metric has become a critical tool so broadly used that changing it without considering its far-reaching impacts is short-sighted,” the senators wrote.

In addition to Blunt, Boozman, and Van Hollen, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (Wyo.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Steve Daines (Mont.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Roger Marshall, M.D. (Kan.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Mitt Romney (Utah), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Todd Young (Ind.).

A copy of the letter is below and here.

Dear Acting Director Fairweather:

We write today to respectfully request that you end the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) consideration of a proposal that would adversely affect over 140 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) across the United States. On January 19, 2021, OMB initiated a public comment period on a proposal that would double the minimum population requirement for a MSA from 50,000 to 100,000. Doing so would remove MSA status from cities across 45 states.

While initially it may seem as though some areas could easily retain MSA status under the proposed new threshold of 100,000, it later becomes clear that the 100,000-population benchmark is not applied to the entirety of the MSA. Instead, this standard is placed only on the “core Census Bureau-delineated urban area,” or the geographical boundary within the MSA which retains the highest population density. While a MSA may have a population of well over 100,000, if the core of the area does not meet this limited criteria, the area will be removed of its MSA status.

OMB’s position is that the definition and criteria of a MSA may be changed independent of all other considerations. Indeed, the posting in the Federal Register states:

“OMB establishes and maintains these areas solely for statistical purposes. In reviewing and revising these areas, OMB does not take into account or attempt to anticipate any public or private sector nonstatistical uses that may be made of the delineations. These areas are not designed to serve as a general-purpose geographic framework applicable for nonstatistical activities or for use in program funding formulas.” 

Though the consideration of nonstatistical uses is not the priority of OMB, ignoring the unwritten effects that MSA’s have on the decision-making process of our government would cause major disruptions with grant and entitlement programs, medical reimbursements, economic development, housing initiatives, and more. The MSA metric has become a critical tool so broadly used that changing it without considering its far-reaching impacts is short-sighted.

We strongly encourage OMB to preserve the current MSA definition to provide greater certainty for our cities and ensure their MSA status remains in place.

 


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