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Five Parts of Virginia Fear Lost Funding If Federal Definitions Change

Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

Critics are piling on after a committee in Washington proposed changing the way Washington classifies cities. The recommendation could mean less federal money for five areas in Virginia.

For the last 70 years, the federal government has classified communities with more than 50,000 residents as Metropolitan Statistical Areas – using that designation to guide distribution of some grants.  Given changes in the nation’s population, a General Services Administration committee recommended downgrading communities with fewer than 100,000 people -- calling them Micropolitan Areas.  David Blount, director of the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions, says that could hurt Charlottesville and four other parts of the state.

“Areas that are along the I-81 corridor – the Winchester-Frederick County area, Harrisonburg, Staunton and also the Blacksburg area.”

He joined hundreds of planners, chambers of commerce and politicians – including Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner – in suggesting the feds wait for new census numbers and consider the impact of the pandemic.

“People may have relocated during the pandemic.  Folks are getting out of cities to places that are less populated – to the countryside, as long as there is access to broadband Internet.”

In addition to costing communities federal dollars, any change to the way we classify cities could push places like Blacksburg. Harrisonburg, Staunton and Charlottesville into competition with smaller, rural towns for government grants.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief