Arizona Cannot Use COVID Money for Anti-Mask Grants, Federal Government Says


The Biden administration on Tuesday ordered Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to stop using federal pandemic funding from the state on a pair of new scholarships that can only be directed to schools without mask mandate.

In a letter to Ducey, the Treasury Department said the grant programs are “not an authorized use” of federal funding. This is the latest attempt by the Biden administration to push back Republican governors who opposed mask warrants and otherwise sought to use federal pandemic funding to advance their own agendas..

Ducey, a Republican, created the grant programs in August to lobby school districts that defied the state’s ban on mask warrants.

He started a $ 163 million grant program using federal funding he controls, but made it available only to schools without a mask warrant. He also set up a $ 10 million program that offers vouchers to families in public schools who require masks or tell students to self-isolate or self-quarantine due to exposure to COVID. -19.

In the letter, Assistant Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said the conditions “undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19”. He asked the state to explain how it will “fix” the problem within 30 days.

Arizona is one of at least eight states that have laws or executive orders banning mandatory masks in public schools.

The Ministry of Education opened investigations into civil rights in August in five Republican-led states that ban mask warrants in schools, saying such actions may violate the rights of students with disabilities. The agency then added Florida to the list of states under investigation. He said he’s monitoring several other states in case he needs to take action, including Arizona.

The Education Department has separately pledged to reimburse school districts that withheld state funding for defying mask bans. Last month, the agency sent nearly $ 150,000 to the Alachua County School Board in Florida after the state withheld school board members’ salaries because the district requires masks.

Education advocates have filed a lawsuit against the Arizona ban and several other state laws that restrict the power of local governments and school districts to impose COVID-19 requirements.

These policies conflict with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend the universal wearing of a mask for students and teachers in the classroom. The CDC has released the guidelines in light of the rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.

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