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New proposal could strip 144 cities of 'metro area' status

The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wants to double the population required to be considered a metro area, from 50,000 people to 100,000. The move could have implications for the amount of federal funding those communities receive from at lest 30 federal programs.
The original population threshold that defines a "metro area" was set back in the 1950s, when the U.S. population was about 150 million people – less than half of the 331 million people the country has now. The federal Office of Management and Budget want to raise the required population for metro areas from the current 50,000 people to 100,000 people, to better reflect what areas of the country people live in today.
In the Salisbury, Maryland metro area, the population is just below 98,000 people, which also puts it below the new proposed threshold, requiring metro areas to have at least 100,000 people. It is among the 144 communities across the country that could lose their “metro area” status based on the federal proposal.
Posted at 11:11 AM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 14:18:21-04

SALISBURY, MD — In this community, kindness is key.

“There’s a lot of things going on here,” said Julia Glanz, Salisbury, Maryland’s city administrator. “We're the first city in America that has become a ‘Kindness City.’”

Salisbury is the largest metro area on Maryland’s eastern shore. How long it will remain a metro area is up in the air.

The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wants to double the population required to be considered a metro area, from 50,000 people to 100,000.

Why?

The original threshold was set back in the 1950s when the U.S. population was about 150 million people, less than half of the 331 million people the country has now. They want to make the change, to better reflect what areas of the country people live in today. Yet, that move could present some issues.

“The point of fact is that this could have far-reaching implications,” said Tony Pipa with the Brookings Institution’s Center for Sustainable Development.

Pipa studied the proposal and said it could affect how much money those communities get from at least 30 federal programs, like for community block grants, transportation projects, or Medicare reimbursements.

“They [the OMB] suggest that it's not something that the federal government should be using to define how it spends its money,” Pipa said. “On the other hand, it is a measure that many agencies in the U.S. government then go ahead and do use to define how they allocate their resources.”

In the Salisbury, Maryland metro area, the population is just below 98,000 people, which also puts it below the new proposed threshold, requiring metro areas to have at least 100,000 people. It is not alone.

At least 144 communities across the country could also lose their “metro area” status, including places like Santa Fe, New Mexico; Lima, Ohio; Sebring, Florida; Charlottesville, Virginia; Chico, California; Flagstaff, Arizona and Battle Creek, Michigan.

“It's concerning from a financial standpoint. It's concerning from a business standpoint,” Glanz said. “We don't want anything that's going to stymie that.”

A decision on the proposed population requirement for metro areas is expected in the next few months.