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Oakridge designated as rural city opening avenue for federal funds

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Oakridge designation as a rural community could open up opportunities for additional federal dollars Herald photo

By GEORGE CUSTER/Editor  —  Oakridge is the lone city in Lane County that has been redesignated from an urban area to a rural area under a new definition by the U.S. Census Bureau for the 2020 census.

Over a dozen cities, towns, and unincorporated areas in Oregon are affected by this change.

With the revision in 2020, the minimum population has doubled to 5,000 people for an area to be considered urban.

The new designation could open the way for additional federal funds. Previously, Oakridge has missed out missed out on many opportunities to apply for federal grants. Likewise, other federal funding has also been out of reach because of not qualifying due to its designation.

The Census Bureau adjusts the definition every decade to account for changes or needs of policymakers and researchers.

The bureau says it is done for statistical purposes and it does not control how government agencies use the definitions to distribute funding.

The Census Bureau’s new threshold will impact an area’s ability to qualify for different types of federal funding. Federal programs such as transportation, housing, health care may now be available. Education and agriculture may also be opening up in rural areas. The Census Bureau’s definition often provides a baseline for the federal government which doesn’t have a standard definition for urban or rural areas.

Bryan Cutchen, incoming Oakridge mayor, was asked to respond to the development. Cutchen said “The rural designation will allow the City of Oakridge to more effectively compete for federal funding to improve medical, transportation and other services. It is a positive change for a community presented which significant rural challenges and put them on the road to becoming  self-sustaining.”





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