Kelly, Thune Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Communities from Arbitrary Reclassification and Potential Loss of Federal Funds

Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced the Metropolitan Statistical Area Preservation Act, legislation that would protect more than 140 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), including Sierra Vista, Lake Havasu City, Flagstaff, and others in Arizona from losing this classification. Losing this classification could, among other things, harm communities’ access to certain federal funding opportunities and their ability to grow and attract businesses. The bipartisan Kelly-Thune bill would prevent the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from increasing the minimum population that is currently required to be considered an MSA and ensure these communities’ retain their classifications.

“As we work to beat this virus and rebuild our economy, it’s a priority for me to ensure a strong recovery in rural and small town Arizona,” said Kelly. “I’ve heard concerns from Mayors across Arizona about how this policy change could impact their ability to support their communities by qualifying for federal transportation, housing, and other funds. That’s why I’m introducing this bipartisan legislation to ensure communities can get the support they need to continue to grow and prosper.”

“Increasing the population threshold that is needed to be considered a ‘metropolitan statistical area’ would adversely affect communities in nearly every state, including South Dakota.” said Thune. “The Metropolitan Statistical Area Preservation Act would protect communities like Rapid City from losing their current classification as a metropolitan area, address concerns I have heard from constituents in western South Dakota, and protect them from potentially losing access to certain federal funds.”

On January 19, 2021, OMB issued a notice and request for public comment on a set of recommendations from the Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area Standards Review Committee to revise certain requirements for communities to be classified as an MSA. Among other things, the recommendations would increase the minimum urban area population needed to qualify as an MSA from 50,000 to 100,000.

In response to the OMB notice, Kelly, Thune and a number of their colleagues sent a bipartisan letter to OMB Acting Director Rob Fairweather urging him to reject the recommendations that would increase the minimum urban area population threshold for MSA designations.