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 training grants that may solely be directed to varsities with out masks mandates.

In a letter to Ducey, the Treasury Division mentioned the grant applications 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 applications in August to place stress on college 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 varsities with out masks mandates. He additionally established a $10 million program that provides vouchers to households at public colleges that require masks or that inform college students to isolate or quarantine on account 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 elucidate 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 applications.

“Following the challenges in the course of the 2020 college 12 months, everybody’s main focus needs to be equipping households with the assets to get their youngsters caught up. That is precisely what this program does — giving households in want the chance to entry academic assets like tutoring, little one care, transportation and extra,” Karamargin mentioned in an announcement.

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

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

The Schooling 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 checklist of states underneath investigation. It mentioned it was watching a number of different states in case it wanted to take motion, together with in Arizona.

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

Schooling advocates have filed a lawsuit over Arizona’s ban and a number of other different state legal guidelines that limit the ability of native governments and faculty districts to impose COVID-19 necessities.

These insurance policies battle with steerage from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, which recommends common masks sporting for college students and academics within the classroom. The CDC issued the steerage in gentle of the speedy unfold of the extremely contagious delta variant of COVID-19.

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