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Alexandria officials concerned after proposal made to redefine metropolitan areas

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 8:04 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Alexandria could be one of many cities affected by a new federal proposal that would redefine what constitutes a metropolitan center.

Back in January, the Office of Management and Budget recommended that 144 municipalities across 48 states be downgraded from metropolitan statistical areas to micropolitan destinations. Alexandria and Hammond are the two cities in Louisiana that are included.

Deborah Randolph, the President of the Central Louisiana Regional Chamber of Commerce, said they are opposing these changes. She said, “The review standards committee claims that it is merely a pretty meaningless statistical measurement, but we beg to differ.”

The proposal states that only urban areas with a population of 100,000 or more would keep their MSA status. This doubles the current status of 50,000 people that has been in place for 70 years. Alexandria has an urban population of just over 80,000.

“Something that may be better from a federal perspective will be detrimental to small rural municipalities like ourselves,” said Alexandria Mayor Jeff Hall. “Our opportunities would be far less to be successful than we are right now with the 50,000 cap. So, we are certainly in favor of leaving it quantifiably like it is.”

Randolph said three dozen federally funded programs are tied to cities with the MSA designation, but if the proposal is accepted, that would be taken away.

“It’s CDBG, money for planning organization and hospital reimbursement, which would be a devastating cut to our two acute care hospitals so we are very concerned about that,” said Randolph.

Randolph said they have issued public comments to the Office of Budget and Management in opposition to the proposal. Hospitals and other organizations in Central Louisiana have sent letters as well on the impact it would have if the regulations are changed. Randolph has also asked U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy to also write a letter to OMB.

If the proposal is accepted, it would take a year to go into effect. Randolph says they’re hoping that if it does go through, the programs would be decoupled so municipalities that are affected won’t lose out on them.

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