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Published in Economic Development
Federal agency withdraws proposal that would have redesignated six Michigan metro areas Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Federal agency withdraws proposal that would have redesignated six Michigan metro areas

BY Wednesday, July 14, 2021 09:23am

Six Michigan communities are no longer at risk of losing a key U.S. Census designation that determines crucial federal funding for services, a federal agency announced Tuesday.

The White House Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday issued its 2020 Standards for Delineating Core Based Statistical Areas. The plan no longer includes raising the minimum population from 50,000 to 100,000 people to qualify as a Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The initial proposal from early this year would have redesignated Battle Creek, Bay City, Jackson, Midland, Monroe and Niles-Benton Harbor, potentially jeopardizing key federal funding that comes with the MSA designation.

Earlier this year, local and elected officials raised concerns about the potential redesignation, calling it “substantial and far-reaching,” as MiBiz previously reported

“Communities of all sizes across Michigan and the United States are counting on federal resources to recover from the ongoing unprecedented public health and economic crisis,” U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said in a statement. 

Peters introduced legislation earlier this year that would have stopped the proposed changes to increase the population threshold.

“I’m grateful to Acting Director (Shalanda) Young and others at OMB for working with me and rejecting this potentially harmful proposal,” Peters added. “I’ll continue my efforts to ensure Michigan’s communities and their residents are not left vulnerable at a time when support from the federal government is so important.” 

The initial proposal was published in a Jan. 19 OMB notice and would have affected 144 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas by downgrading them to “Micropolitan Statistical Areas.” In addition to losing federal funding, local economic development officials raised concerns about valuable data collection that’s tied to the designation.

Despite the withdrawn proposal, the OMB still has concerns that the metropolitan statistical area thresholds have not kept pace with population growth, according to a statement from the federal agency. The OMB will be working with the Standards Review Committee to conduct research and stakeholder outreach to inform the 2030 standards update, officials said. 

Statistical area standards are used to classify statistics including unemployment or GDP levels by geographic areas. Every 10 years, OMB considers updates to the standards to ensure their continued usefulness and relevance for statistical agencies. 

While the Census-based formula changes slightly every decade, the metropolitan statistical area standards have been in place since the 1950s, Chris Hackbarth, director of state and federal affairs at the Michigan Municipal League, previously told MiBiz.

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