BREAKING: Following Tester Push, OMB Abandons Plan to Change City Size Designation for Great Falls, Missoula, Bozeman

Senator led charge to prevent shortsighted proposal that would have jeopardized critical funding for Great Falls, Missoula, and Bozeman

Bowing to pressure from U.S. Senator Jon Tester, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) today announced it is abandoning a proposed plan to change the criteria a city must reach to be considered a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

Tester led the charge to overturn the move, which would have jeopardized millions of dollars of federal funding received by Great Falls, Missoula, and Bozeman through a range of federal programs, creating uncertainty for municipal governments as they continue recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Montana communities depend on certainty and reliable funding to thrive, and a shortsighted bureaucratic change like this is the last thing cities like Great Falls, Missoula, and Bozeman needed as they work to get back on their feet after the pandemic,” Tester said. “I’m glad OMB listened to me and the many voices who pushed back against this poorly conceived proposal, and I will continue fighting to make sure cities and towns across our state have the resources they need to provide critical services, create jobs, and come out strong on the other side of this crisis.”

In January, OMB proposed to change the population threshold of the MSA to 100,000 people, which would impact hundreds of communities across the country including Great Falls, Missoula, and Bozeman. MSA is a designation currently used by OMB to refer to geographic areas with a population of at least 50,000 people, and is used by numerous federal agencies and programs to determine funding allocations for numerous federal programs including housing and health care initiatives.

When the proposed change was announced, Tester leapt into action. He fired off a letter to Acting OMB Director Robert S. Fairweather calling the decision “irresponsible” and urged OMB to reverse its decision, and in April he introduced the Metropolitan Statistical Area Stabilization Act to prevent the rule change from taking place. He also spoke directly with Acting OMB Director Shalanda Young and encouraged her to pull the decision.

The Mayors of Great Falls, Missoula, and Bozeman partnered with Tester and thanked him for his work:

“Like many communities, Great Falls relies on federal funding to support our schools, firefighters and first responders, and health care workers – especially as we build back following the pandemic – but this proposed rule change put those funds in jeopardy, and would have been devastating for our community,” said Great Falls Mayor Bob Kelly. “Senator Tester fought tooth and nail to reverse this poor decision and make sure it didn’t go into effect, and I am thankful for his support and for standing up for all Montanans as he serves in the U.S. Senate.”

“I’m grateful for Senator Tester’s advocacy and leadership, once again, in ensuring that Montanans aren’t left out of the conversation when federal agencies propose ideas that look good on paper but leave cities like Missoula out in the cold,” said Missoula Mayor John Engen. “Our ability to directly serve our residents is enhanced greatly by our status as a metropolitan area and Senator Tester’s work in tapping the brakes here means we’ll be able to continue to serve vulnerable residents through CDGB and HOME programs, as well as make thoughtful local decisions to spend federal transportation dollars.”

“This is welcome news for Bozeman, and I am thankful to Senator Tester for his tireless work fighting on behalf of our city to ensure we have access to the critical funds we need to thrive,” said Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus. “Now that OMB has agreed to reverse course, we look forward to ensuring this funding will help Bozeman provide critical services, grow our economy, and work to build back after the pandemic.”