Battle Creek and five other Michigan cities could lose federal support if the White House gets its way.   Right now, the federal government threshold for metropolitan areas is a population of 50,000.  But the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wants to double that to 100,000.

A bipartisan bill in Congress from Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) would stop that move in its tracks, for now, keeping funding formulas intact for cities like Battle Creek while the potential impact can be studied.

A release from Senator Peters’ office said communities in Michigan and across the United States count on this designation for federal funding that goes towards important programs. The proposal could threaten access to vital federal resources for nearly 150 communities across the country, including six in Michigan.

In addition to Battle Creek, the proposed change could have repercussions to the communities of  Bay City, Jackson, Midland, Monroe, and Niles-Benton Harbor.

Battle Creek Assistant City Manager Ted Dearing said Battle Creek and its adjacent municipalities give us a metropolitan population right around 100,000.  “It’s been slightly over 100,000, although it could be just less than 100,000.  We’ll know better when the most recent census data comes out”.   That could be sometime this Fall.  ”There's been some preliminary data released,” said Dearing.  “But nothing relevant for Battle Creek, so we're anxiously waiting.”

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Earlier this year, Peters warned OMB that this proposal should be withdrawn and studied further to prevent possible negative effects to communities in Michigan and across the nation.

Peters said the legislation will “help protect communities from any unintended consequences that could limit their access to federal support by ensuring that this proposed change is thoroughly studied before it goes into effect.”

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), a co-sponsor of The Metropolitan Areas Protection and Standardization Act (MAPS) “requires OMB to provide a public report to Congress estimating the county-level impact and justifying the scientific basis for any proposed change to an existing statistical area standard, improve reporting on current uses of statistical area standards, and ensure adequate time for public comment before recommending, adopting, or implementing.”

Dearing said that the move to a 100,000 designation wouldn’t necessarily be devastating for Battle Creek, but said the city certainly doesn’t see any upside to it.  “We do see some downsides, but I don't know that it's going to necessarily negatively impact some of those federal funds that flow directly to Battle Creek for services. We definitely have gone on record with the federal government encouraging them to rethink that strategy.”

Dearing said a change could have a negative impact on community development block grant dollars and transit operating support from the federal government.  But he said those formulas rely less on the MSA and more on certain other factors.   Dearing said he thinks the bigger impact would likely be for economic development efforts to attract companies to Battle Creek.

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