Halting Of City Redefinition Gives Volunteer State The Chance To Rebuild

Photo: Historic Criagmiles Hall in downtown Cleveland, Tennessee.

Photo Credit: JonesManagement / CC

Published July 16, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

The United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has decided to hold on changes that would have taken away federal funding opportunities for Tennessee cities like Cleveland, Jackson and Morristown. 

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

The proposed modification would have redefined metropolitan statistical area requirements and forced more cities to compete for a smaller pot of funds. 

Representative Chuck Fleishmann said, “I am happy to hear that the OMB is backing off its proposal to change the definition of a ‘city.’ Countless communities across East Tennessee will continue to receive federal grants and ensure residents receive necessary services.” 

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OMB’s decision follows a letter sent by four members of Tennessee’s Congressional Delegation to the Acting Director of the OMB, Rob Fairweather. 

The letter reads in part: 

“We write to you regarding the notice of proposed changes to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) metropolitan and micropolitan statistical area standards.  Specifically, the prospect of doubling the minimum urban area population requirement for a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) from 50,000 to 100,000 would hurt several Tennessee communities.   

On January 19th, 2021, OMB published a notice and request for comment on a proposal to update the MSA designations.  We have serious concerns with the proposed changes, which would have a detrimental impact on economic development in these areas.” 

Representative Diana Harshbarger said, “The decision to keep the current definition of a metropolitan statistical area at 50,000 people is great news for Morristown. Had OMB increased the threshold as debated, Morristown and hundreds of communities across the country would’ve lost their MSA status, depriving them of access to certain federal funding opportunities and their ability to grow and attract businesses.” 

According to a report from RollCall.com, the OMB tinkers with the definitions of a “metropolitan statistical area” each decade but this is the first time the White House budget agency has touched the population threshold since establishing it following the 1950 census. 

Although the OMB originally did not mean for the MSA definition to be used in funding decisions, hundreds of federal programs now utilize the MSA designation for that purpose. 

Currently, there are 392 MSAs across the country ranging from large metros such as Nashville to smaller, regional MSAs such as Cleveland, Jackson and Morristown.   

If OMB’s changes had been enacted, 144 MSAs, including three in Tennessee would have been downgraded. 

Representative David Kustoff said, “This change would have drastically hurt several of our communities, including Jackson, Tennessee, and would have denied them critical opportunities for economic growth and development.” 

Cleveland, Jackson and Morristown, which have been greatly affected by the pandemic, would have faced increased competition among rural communities for scarce funds. 

Many such communities are burgeoning manufacturing, technology and workforce hubs, but with a downgrade, companies may have chosen to invest in other MSAs.    

Senator Bill Hagerty said, “In March, members of our delegation raised these serious concerns with the Biden Administration, and today I’m proud that Tennesseans will not be prejudiced in the allocation of federal resources.” 

Senator Marsha Blackburn said, “I led the charge with my colleagues in Congress back in March to ensure our communities continue to have the funding opportunities they deserve. The OMB decision is a tremendous win for the men and women of the Volunteer State as we rebuild from the pandemic.” 

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About the Author:

Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative 

Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

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