The Biden administration this week, through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), reversed course on a decision to accept a recommendation by a federal committee to double the population threshold for establishing what constitutes a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
A change in the formula could have had a significant impact on federal funding for several Alabama metropolitan areas.
Under current metrics, a population of at least 50,000 in an area’s core city designates it to be considered an MSA.
Earlier this year, federal statistical agency representatives put forth a proposal to increase the MSA population standard to 100,000. Upon closure of the public comment period, the OMB declined the proposal to alter current population standards.
The move would have downgraded twelve Alabama metro designations to “micropolitan” areas.
Members of Alabama’s federal delegation opposed the proposal, which they say could have resulted in the loss of crucial federal grants. In addition to the loss of federal funding, officials feared the status downgrade could have harmed economic development efforts.
The affected areas in the Yellowhammer State would have included the cities and surrounding counties of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Decatur, Gadsden, Anniston, Oxford, Auburn, Opelika, Dothan, Daphne, Fairhope and Foley.
Prior to the OMB’s decision to decline the proposal, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) joined Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and John Thune (R-SD) in introducing bipartisan legislation to prohibit the Biden administration from moving forward with the recommendation.
Tuberville took to social media to applaud the decision.
Yesterday’s news about the Biden Administration maintaining the current population threshold for MSA designation is a victory for folks in Florence, Muscle Shoals, Decatur, Gadsden, Anniston, Oxford, Auburn, Opelika, Dothan, Daphne, Fairhope, and Foley.
— Senator Tommy Tuberville (@SenTuberville) July 14, 2021
U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl (R-AL), who joined his House colleagues from Alabama in signing a letter opposing any MSA changes, issued a statement on Thursday voicing his approval of OMB’s decision. Baldwin County, located in Carl’s first congressional district, would have been impacted by a new formula.
“I’m proud to have joined this bipartisan effort to protect areas like Baldwin County and ensure they are able to continue receiving important federal grant money, especially as our local communities work to rebuild economic engines that have been damaged by the COVID crisis,” Carl stated. “The OMB’s decision to maintain existing standards for determining metropolitan statistical areas is great news for Baldwin County. If enacted, a proposed rule change would have stripped Baldwin County of its designation as a Metropolitan Statistical Area, which would have resulted in a potential loss of millions of dollars in federal grants.”
Dylan Smith is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News