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Jackson Cit Pat: Officials fear proposed increase to metropolitan size could hurt Jackson’s federal funding

March 25, 2021
Tim In The News

JACKSON, MI – A proposed change in how the federal government defines a metropolitan area is causing concern among city of Jackson officials.

The federal Office of Management and Budget has recommended changing the minimum size of a metropolitan statistical area from 50,000 to 100,000 residents in an designated geographic area – a move that could change the “metropolitan area” status of 142 cities and their surrounding communities, including Jackson.

Census estimates from 2019 put the city at about 33,000 residents and the county at about 158,500 residents. The recommended OMB change lists Jackson as one of the communities that could lose its metro area status if the proposal is adopted.

This would be the first change to the designation since it began in 1950, according to the recommendation from former President Donald Trump administration’s last full day, Jan. 19.

While OMB officials said it should be changed for statistical purposes only, Jackson officials fear it could affect the way the city gets federal funding.

That’s because federal Community Development Block Grants and HOME funds use metropolitan statuses in their grant funding formulas. City Spokesman Aaron Dimick said Jackson uses grant funding for a variety of city improvements.

“That would mean we’d be able to do a lot less for our low-income residents, and a lot of the projects that we fund through CDBG funding like road projects and park improvements and home rehabs,” Dimick said. “We’re concerned that would mean that funding would dry up.”

In the 2020-21 fiscal year, the city received $1.3 million in CDBG funds and $314,129 in HOMES funds. That mirrors similar numbers in the previous three years.

City officials aren’t the only ones concerned with the change. Twenty-two senators, including U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, signed a letter urging the office to reconsider the change because of its potential impact to small communities’ funding. Five members of the Michigan delegation of the U.S. House of Representatives, including U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, who represents Jackson, signed a similar letter.

A public comment period on the proposed changes ended Friday, March 19. Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies submitted a letter pointing out the proposal’s effects. He said the city now awaits what will happen next.

In the meantime, leaders work with federal elected officials to ensure those funding methods are still available to Jackson, Dobies said.

“Our job is to fight for the resources that we need and what we’re talking about isn’t just about population, it’s about helping those that are underserved and have low to moderate income,” Dobies said. “While other cities may be expanding in terms of population, those CDBG and HOME funds are intended to go toward populations and census tracts that are low- to moderate-income, and we have a city where one and three live under the federal poverty level.”

This article originally appeared in the March 24 edition of the Jackson Citizen Patriot