June 30, 2021

Smith and Parson Lead Missouri Colleagues Demanding Answers from Biden White House Over Potential Reduction in Federal Support for Small Communities, Rural Areas

WASHINGTON– Today, House Budget Committee Republican Leader Jason Smith (MO-08), joined by Missouri Governor Mike Parson, Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, and Representatives Ann Wagner, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Vicky Hartzler, Samuel Graves, and Billy Long sent a letter to the Biden Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Shalanda Young, raising concerns over proposed revisions to the population threshold needed to qualify as a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The revisions currently under review would change the population threshold to qualify as a MSA from 50,000 to 100,000.

MSA standards determine eligibility for certain federal program and grant opportunities, among them the Medicare tier reimbursement system administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Community Development Block Grant program overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“Too often, Washington, D.C. fails to acknowledge or take into account the interests of rural America. Time and again we see federal dollars flow to large cities while the rural working class is left behind. The current MSA threshold helps give small Missouri communities a fair shot at getting federal assistance and access to programs for the people who live there. I am proud to stand with Governor Parson and my Missouri Senate and House colleagues to lead this effort in bringing attention to the needs of hardworking Missourians and supporting a stronger future for rural America,” said Representative Smith.

“The people of Missouri represent the honest, hard-working character that is essential to the success of our nation. Our federal government should support these communities, not make it harder for businesses and families to thrive,” Governor Parson said. “I am proud to stand alongside Representative Smith to bring attention to these needs and urge OMB to conduct a thorough review of the effects this change would have on small communities here in Missouri and across the nation.”

In their letter, Representative Smith and colleagues called on the Biden White House to provide information regarding the federal programs that use the MSA to determine eligibility and funding levels. They also requested that President Biden’s OMB provide details on the impact these proposed changes would have on small communities and their economies, including rural areas.

According to the MSA Standards Review Committee, increasing the population threshold for the MSA classification from 50,000 to 100,000 would eliminate the MSA designation for 144 areas. This would have a devastating impact on those communities, which include 251 counties and almost 19 million Americans, and those that rely on federal resources.

“In Missouri, four areas would lose their MSA designation and be reclassified as micropolitan statistical areas, creating uncertainty for several local economies and communities. Those include Cape Girardeau; Jefferson City; Joplin; and St. Joseph. In response to OMB’s notice for public comment, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents more than 75,000 employers across the state, stated that these abrupt changes would ‘make it harder for our state’s businesses to recruit and retain talent in impacted regions’ and would ‘hurt our state’s economic and workforce development opportunities, as many grant programs and site selections are predicated on MSA designations of communities.’ It would be reasonable to assume similar concerns would be shared nationwide,” wrote Smith, Parson, Blunt, Hawley, Wagner, Luetkemeyer, Hartzler, Graves, and Long. “We urge OMB to conduct a thorough analysis to ensure priority treatment is not given to large coastal cities at the expense of small communities in middle America that serve as the backbone of this country. If the recommendations of the Committee were adopted, it could significantly reduce access to federal resources that provide support to those local communities.”

Read the full letter here.