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Senate bill pauses metro area changes, including in Indiana, for now

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Downtown Muncie
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Muncie would have lost its MSA status under the proposed federal change.

The US Senate has voted to halt any immediate change in the definition of metro areas. A proposed change would have removed the label from several Indiana cities, including Muncie and Kokomo.

“Metropolitan statistical areas” have long been defined as cities with 50,000 residents. There are nearly 400 in the US. The biggest benefit to being an MSA is the ability to apply for federal grants not open to other areas.

Last year, the federal Office of Management and Budget proposed to double the population requirement to count as an MSA to 100,000. It would drop more than 140 MSAs nationwide, including Columbus, Kokomo, Michigan City-Laporte, Muncie, and Terre Haute.

View: Indiana’s MSAs as of 2013

US Representative Greg Pence spoke to Indiana Public Broadcasting’s “All In” about MSAs last year. Before this year’s redistricting, Pence represented two.

“I’ve got one community in my Sixth District that, they believe, if they lost the MSA designation, that would take $3 million out of the community that they have used year after year to have a city bus system to get people that don’t have transportation to and from work.”

Pence says to replace the grant money, areas would have to raise property taxes.

On Sunday, a bill introduced in May 2021 was approved in the Senate with unanimous consent. It requires a federal report on MSAs to be written in the next three years. And, any changes to MSAs must include a public comment period of 4-6 months.

Before the federal bill was filed, Hoosier lawmakers sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, asking it to reconsider the change. That was after a report by the Brookings Institute highlighted the change and recommended against it.

To become law, the House must take up the measure, then send it to the president’s desk.