Peters and Portman Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Communities from Consequences of Proposed Change to Metropolitan Area Standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced they have introduced bipartisan legislation to help protect communities across the country from the possible consequences of a proposed change that would increase the population threshold for metropolitan areas from 50,000 to 100,000. Communities in Michigan, Ohio and across the United States count on this designation for federal funding that goes towards important programs. The proposal from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) could threaten access to vital federal resources for nearly 150 communities across the country, including six in Michigan and five in Ohio.

“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,” said Senator Peters. “My commonsense, 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 designations consist of cities and surrounding communities linked by social and economic factors as established by the Office of Management and Budget for the purpose of receiving federal funds. The January 2021 proposal by the Office of Management and Budget to double the minimum population threshold for metropolitan statistical areas will impact hundreds of cities across the United States, including several in my home state of Ohio, and potentially jeopardize much-needed federal resources from reaching communities that depend on them,” said Senator Portman. “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.” 

Communities in Michigan that would be affected by this change include Battle Creek, Bay City, Jackson, Midland, Monroe, and Niles-Benton Harbor. Communities in Ohio that would affected by this change include Lima, Mansfield, Springfield, Weirton-Steubenville, and Wheeling.

Metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) were created to standardize and identify the nation’s largest centers of population and activity. Metropolitan and non-metropolitan designations are used by agencies across the federal government to determine eligibility for funding and services. However, the federal government has not provided a full analysis of which programs use this designation. While losing MSA status may not necessarily result in a loss of federal funds, the uncertainty is concerning and warrants careful deliberation of unintended consequences of the proposed redesignation. The Metropolitan Areas Protection and Standardization Act would provide needed analysis and transparency by requiring OMB to collaborate with federal agencies to study and disclose the impacts to federal programs before any change to metropolitan area standards can be implemented. The bill would extend the public comment period for potential changes and ensure the public is aware of how MSAs are used to determine federal benefits. Finally, the legislation would also instruct OMB to publish a report on the estimated impact to domestic assistance programs for any proposed change to metropolitan area standards.

The Metropolitan Areas Protection and Standardization Act is supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Rural Health Association, the National Association of Counties, the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Association of Counties, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Battle Creek, Michigan City Manager’s Office, Mayor Marcus Muhammad of Benton Harbor, Michigan, Mayor Robert E. Clark of Monroe, Michigan, Kinexus, Mayor Warren Copeland and City Manager Bryan Heck of Springfield, Ohio, Mayor David Berger of Lima, Ohio, President and CEO Jed Metzger, Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, and President and CEO Michael McDorman, Greater Springfield Partnership.