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Lawmakers warn of funding risk if 144 cities are reclassified as 'micropolitan' areas

Lawmakers warn of funding risk if 144 cities are reclassified as 'micropolitan' areas
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers are warning of funding risks for 144 cites if the federal government moves forward with a proposal to raise the urban population criteria for metropolitan areas from 50,000 to 100,000, which would reclassify the localities as "micropolitan."

A bipartisan group of eight senators and two House members led by Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOn The Money: Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl | Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term | Left-leaning group raises concerns about SALT cap repeal Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax MORE (R-S.D.) sent a letter last week to acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Rob Fairweather warning that the designation would “harm communities across the nation.”

“If the recommendation to increase the required urbanized area population from 50,000 to 100,000 is accepted and the [metropolitan statistical area] classification is revoked, 144 communities nationwide could lose eligibility for certain federal programs,” the lawmakers wrote.

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“We strongly encourage you to reject any increase in the minimum urbanized area population needed to qualify as [a metropolitan statistical area],” they added. “Adhering to this recommendation has the potential to harm communities across the nation, which we hope you take into account while considering these recommendations.”

The letter was also signed by Sen. Michael Rounds (R-S.D.), Kevin CramerKevin John CramerBiden administration faces big decision on whether to wade into Dakota Access fight OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Senate GOP pushes back on list of participants in oil and gas leasing forum MORE (R-N.D.), Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisSenate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire MORE (R-Wyo.), Mark KellyMark KellyManchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act Republicans fret over divisive candidates Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE (D-Ariz.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax Biden to hold second meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure MORE (R-N.D.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaAdvocacy groups pushing Biden to cancel student debt for disabled Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act Game of votes — why budget reconciliation isn't the answer Democrats need MORE (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Adrian SmithAdrian Michael SmithOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire GOP Rep. Kevin Brady won't seek reelection Small cities fret over feds redefining metro areas MORE (R-Neb.)

Hoeven sent a separate letter to OMB last Tuesday warning that the requirement would also negatively harm “many micropolitan areas on the precipice of advancing to metropolitan area status,” such as the North Dakota cities of Bismark, Grand Forks and Minot.

The Associated Press first reported the OMB’s consideration earlier this month. The news outlet noted that multiple city leaders and rural researchers have urged the office to reject the proposal.

The AP noted that the 50,000-person standard was introduced in 1950, when about half of U.S. residents lived in metro areas. Now, 86 percent of residents do.