Metropolitan Statistical Areas classification to remain at 50,000

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced July 14 it is abandoning a proposed plan to change the criteria a city must reach to be considered a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). OMB announced it will maintain the MSA designation at 50,000 in population rather than raise the threshold to 100,000 in population.
Three Tennessee cities – Cleveland, Morristown and Jackson – would have been directly affected by the proposed change. But ultimately, it easily could would have had a combined effect on many of Tennessee’s smaller, more rural cities and towns who would have to compete for federal funding.

“This is a victory for the people in Cleveland, Morristown and Jackson. Keeping the designation at 50,000 ensures that critical funding streams will not be cut off for vital programs,” said TML Executive Director Anthony Haynes. “This decision also protects some of Tennessee’s more rural communities from having to compete with much larger, urban communities for federal funding.”

TML, in conjunction with its federal partner the National League of Cities, advocated against the change and outlined the harmful effects the proposal would have on MSA cities.
Two primary funding sources frequently cited as being affected by MSA designations are Federal and Highway Transportation dollars and Community Development Block Grants. These dollars support programs for low and moderate-income people, public transportation projects, economic development, water and sewer projects, public health programs, and the elimination of slums and blight.
In addition to filing formal comments with the OMB, TML also worked with members of the Tennessee Congressional delegation, seeking their assistance to overturn the proposed changed.

“We appreciate the assistance of U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, and U.S. Reps. Chuck Fleischmann, Diana Harshbarger, and David Kustoff – who strongly advocated against the change,” said Haynes. “We are especially grateful for Rep. Harshbarger, who took action by sponsoring legislation to protect these communities and served as a valuable resource throughout the process; and to Sen. Blackburn, who signed on as a co-sponsor in the Senate. The MSA reclassification would have jeopardized millions of dollars of federal funding to these communities, creating uncertainty for municipal governments as they continue to provide needed services to their citizens.”
A federal register notice published on July 16 includes this announcement about the proposed change in metropolitan areas:

OMB Decision: OMB does not accept the initial recommendation to raise the MSA core population threshold in the 2020 standards, and has decided to leave the current threshold of 50,000 in place. A change to the fundamental criteria that determine whether an area is considered metropolitan would cause disruption to statistical programs and products, and would be difficult for the statistical agencies to implement. OMB decided that there is insufficient justification at this time to raise the threshold to 100,000 and that further research is necessary before deciding whether to change the criteria that determine whether an area is considered metropolitan. Finally, we also note the Standard Review Committee’s subsequent modification of their initial recommendation recognizing the value of additional research before modifying the threshold.