A proposed impending change in Washington, D.C., could have damaging and long-lasting effects on Jonesboro, and we are dedicated to preventing it.
On the surface, redefining what constitutes a Metropolitan Statistical Area is little more than a technical issue, a numbers game. But its impact could be severe, and we want the well-intentioned leaders of the federal Office of Management and Budget to understand the consequences for Jonesboro, Hot Springs, Texarkana, Pine Bluff and scores of other mid-size metropolitan areas around the nation.
The plan by OMB would double the minimum requirement for an MSA “core area” from a minimum population of 50,000 — which has been in place since 1950. Those proposing this decades-old policy consider it simply updating an outdated standard, but the recommendation fails to take into account the federal funding and economic development at stake for mid-size areas — even bustling, growing cities like Jonesboro.
While OMB advises the MSA designation be used “solely for statistical purposes,” the reality is federal agencies use this information to disburse tax dollars, and economic developers tell us that the greater Jonesboro region would no longer be considered for many significant, job-creating prospects if this change goes into effect.
While funding from the numerous programs and grants varies from year to year, our region could lose millions of dollars over a five-year period, significantly reducing our funding in transportation, housing and health care.
During the comment period that ended March 19, we shared with the Biden administration our concerns about OMB’s recommendations and why this proposal would be bad for Jonesboro. Joining us were more than 800 others across the nation writing to oppose this ill-conceived proposal, including members of Congress.
Last week Sen. Boozman led a bipartisan letter to OMB Acting Director Rob Fairweather urging the agency to abandon plans to alter the current MSA definition.
"The MSA metric has become a critical tool so broadly used that changing it without considering its far-reaching impacts is short-sighted,” Boozman, Sen. Tom Cotton and 23 other senators wrote in the letter.
Mayor Copenhaver also has fought the proposal, believing that the change would touch everyone who lives or works in Jonesboro.
Given the significant consequences associated with OMB’s proposal, we will do all we can to stop the agency from changing the MSA definition. This is not the time to implement policies that have costly, wide-ranging financial implications for communities that are striving to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. John Boozman and
Mayor Harold Copenhaver