Proposed change to metropolitan areas could take money from 9 areas in Pennsylvania

Local News

CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Nine areas in Pennsylvania are at risk of losing federal funding for medical, transportation, and housing programs due to a proposal that would change the statistical classification of a metropolitan area.

Currently, metropolitan areas require a population of 50,000. The proposal would double that to 100,000.

Cities including Altoona, Johnstown, and State College, could lose mass amount of money, causing concern among local leaders.

“Overall the impact could be negative to our community and our access to those federal funds to help those in need,” said Douglas Shontz, assistant to the manager of the State College Borough. “Especially coming out of a pandemic, it’s very critical that we have access to those funds.”

Shontz said State College’s access to metropolitan funding is key for providing affordable housing.

“The best example is ‘Out of the Cold.’ Originally, that organization utilized churches to help those in housing needs, in housing crises, especially during the winter months,” said Shontz. “We were able to utilize those federal funds that we got because of our designation to help pay for hotel rooms.”

Local leaders echoed each other that the change doesn’t make sense.

“To be frank, there’s not really a justification for why they’re changing it other than general growth, but it doesn’t take into account all the other extenuating factors,” said Shontz.

“Why would an agency make an arbitrary decision to move from 50 to 100, there’s no analysis or rationale that I can see,” said U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania Bob Casey. “You can’t just make an assertion and double the number, that doesn’t make much sense to me.”

Those who made the recommendation to the Office of Management and Budget said it’s purely for statistical purposes, citing the U.S. population has roughly doubled since 1950.

“When I first looked at this I was really trying to get a handle on what’s the intention of this change, why are we doing this, and it seems to be statistical based on the population doubling,” said Kim E. Wheeler, executive director of SEDA-Council of Governments.

According to the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania, 24 PA hospitals could be impacted by the change. 17 negatively.

It’s estimated to be an annual loss of $43 million in Medicare reimbursement.

The U.S. Department of Transportation uses metropolitan designations to determine funding for projects, including infrastructure upgrades. A change could mean less funding for planning and assistance.

Over 20 Senators sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, in hopes they reconsider the recommendation.

If it’s accepted, Pennsylvania has the largest number of residents that will be impacted.

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