Arizona cannot use COVID cash for anti-mask grants, feds say

The Biden administration on Tuesday ordered Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to cease utilizing the state’s federal pandemic funding on a pair of recent schooling grants that may solely be directed to colleges with out masks mandates.

In a letter to Ducey, the Treasury Division mentioned the grant packages are “not a permissible use” of the federal funding. It is the newest try by the Biden administration to push again towards Republican governors who’ve opposed masks mandates and in any other case sought to make use of federal pandemic funding to advance their very own agendas.

Ducey, a Republican, created the grant packages in August to place strain on faculty districts which have defied the state’s ban on masks mandates.

He launched a $163 million grant program utilizing federal funding he controls, however he made it accessible solely to colleges with out masks mandates. He additionally established a $10 million program that gives vouchers to households at public colleges that require masks or that inform college students to isolate or quarantine because of COVID-19 publicity.

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Within the letter, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo mentioned the circumstances “undermine evidence-based efforts to cease the unfold of COVID-19.” He requested the state to clarify the way it will “remediate” the issue inside 30 days.

C.J. Karamargin, a spokesperson for Ducey, mentioned it is “baffling” why anybody would oppose the grant packages.

“Following the challenges through the 2020 faculty 12 months, everybody’s main focus needs to be equipping households with the assets to get their children caught up. That is precisely what this program does — giving households in want the chance to entry academic assets like tutoring, youngster care, transportation and extra,” Karamargin mentioned in a press release.

He mentioned the governor’s workplace is reviewing the letter and plans to reply.

Arizona is certainly one of at the very least eight states which have legal guidelines or govt orders banning masks necessities in public colleges.

The Training Division in August opened civil rights investigations into 5 Republican-led states that forbid masks mandates in colleges, saying such actions could violate the rights of scholars with disabilities. The company later added Florida to the record of states beneath investigation. It mentioned it was watching a number of different states in case it wanted to take motion, together with in Arizona.

The Training Division individually promised to repay faculty districts who’ve state funding withheld for defying bans on masks necessities. Final month, the company despatched practically $150,000 to the Faculty Board of Alachua County in Florida after the state withheld pay for varsity board members as a result of the district requires masks.

Training advocates have filed a lawsuit over Arizona’s ban and several other different state legal guidelines that prohibit the facility of native governments and college districts to impose COVID-19 necessities.

These insurance policies battle with steering from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, which recommends common masks carrying for college kids and lecturers within the classroom. The CDC issued the steering in gentle of the fast unfold of the extremely contagious delta variant of COVID-19.

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