Hattiesburg metro status at risk under proposed change to population requirement

Updated: Mar. 23, 2021 at 7:12 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Due to a proposal from the Federal Office of Management and Budget, the City of Hattiesburg could lose its status as a Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Local and state leaders are voicing concerns because that could mean losing access to certain funding and growth opportunities.

The Federal Office of Management and Budget is proposing that an MSA must meet an increased population of 100,000 urbanized area residents. Hattiesburg meets the current 50,000 resident requirement but would lose its status if the number is increased.

Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith are two of a group of 25 bipartisan senators who have signed a letter encouraging the department not to make the change.

“The change could affect grant and entitlement programs medical reimbursements, economic development, housing initiatives and more. The MSA metric has become a critical tool so broadly used that changing it without considering its far-reaching impacts is short-sighted,” the letter says.

Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker also expressed his opposition to the change.

“This could have far-reaching implications on our ability to access federal transportation grants, which have been very important to us and other entitlement grants that affect the quality of life and ability to provide services to our community,” Barker said. “This would not only affect Hattiesburg, but 143 other MSAs.”

Hattiesburg is one of 144 current MSAs that are in danger of losing its status if the urbanized population requirement increases from 50,000 to 100,00.

Barker plans to deliver his opposition to the OMB this week along with statements from other mayors from the National League of Cities.

The decision to accept or reject the population proposed population requirement will be made on Friday.

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