Front Line: Changing the Definition of MSAs

17 Sep 2021


Earlier this year, the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced a proposed change that would double the minimum population threshold for Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) from 50,000 to 100,000.

MSA designations are used to identify cities and surrounding communities linked by social and economic indicators as established by OMB for the purpose of allocating federal funds. Metropolitan and non-metropolitan designations are used by agencies across the federal government to determine eligibility for funding and services.

The OMB proposal to revise the standard could threaten access to vital federal resources for about 150 communities across the country, according to the bipartisan authors of a bill introduced in Congress — the Metropolitan Areas Protection and Standardization Act — to put the proposed changes on “hold.” However, the federal government has not provided a full analysis of which programs use this designation, some critics say. While losing MSA status may not necessarily result in a loss of federal funds, some leaders say there is major uncertainty about the proposal that could result in harmful, unintended consequences.

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