U.S. Sen. Gary Peters is trying to stop proposed federal changes that would take away the metropolitan area status and jeopardize crucial federal funding for six Michigan communities.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is in the process of changing how Metropolitan Statistical Areas are defined. The agency proposed increasing the minimum population to qualify as a Metropolitan Statistical Area from 50,000 to 100,000.
The proposed changes would redesignate 144 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas that fall short of the proposed new population minimum, including six communities in Michigan: Battle Creek, Bay City, Jackson, Midland, Monroe and Niles-Benton Harbor.
Peters, who serves as the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, recently introduced the Metropolitan Areas Protection and Standardization (MAPS) Act, which would stop the proposed changes to increase the population threshold.
Peters previously said the effects of the proposed changes could be “substantial and far-reaching.”
“Communities of all sizes in Michigan and across the country count on federal resources, especially as they continue to recover from this unprecedented pandemic and economic crisis,” Peters said in a statement. “My common sense, bipartisan legislation will help protect communities from any unintended consequences that could limit their access to federal support by ensuring that this proposed change is thoroughly studied before it goes into effect.”
Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) standards have been in place since the 1950s, Chris Hackbarth, director of state and federal affairs at the Michigan Municipal League, previously told MiBiz. The League is opposed to the proposed change.
Local government leaders in communities at risk of losing their metropolitan status fear the worst, including potentially losing access to important demographic data used for economic development and a downturn in block grant funding.
However, the ultimate effect of redesignating some MSAs to “micropolitan” status remains unclear.
Peters’ bill seeks to provide more transparency in the OMB’s process and would extend the public comment period for potential changes. The bill would also require the OMB to publish a report on the estimated effect on assistance programs for any proposed change to metropolitan designations.
The OMB’s January 2021 proposal to double minimum population thresholds for metropolitan statistical areas would “potentially jeopardize much-needed federal resources from reaching communities that depend on them,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who is a co-sponsor of the bill.
“That’s why I’m proud to support the bipartisan MAPS Act with Senator Peters, which requires OMB to provide a public report to Congress estimating the county-level impact and justifying the scientific basis for any proposed change to an existing statistical area standard, improve reporting on current uses of statistical area standards, and ensure adequate time for public comment before recommending, adopting, or implementing,” Portman said.