Arizona dangers dropping federal assist over anti-mask mandate

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The Biden administration is threatening to withhold COVID-19 aid funds and claw again previous assist from Arizona as a result of it says the state is utilizing the cash to undermine federal steerage about masks in faculties.

The Treasury Department despatched a letter to Arizona officers on Friday warning that the state has 60 days to revamp two present applications that comprise anti-masking provisions.

Federal officers argue the 2 applications are designed to direct funding away from college districts which have launched masks mandates according to the CDC’s steerage.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey rolled out the 2 applications late final 12 months amid a dispute with the Biden administration over how the state may use the $4.2 billion it was awarded underneath the 2021 coronavirus aid invoice.

Under the primary program, districts that require masks in faculties are presently ineligible to obtain any of the $163 million in funding underneath Arizona’s Education Plus-Up Grant Program.

The state’s separate $10 million COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit Program gives as much as $7,000 in vouchers to assist households depart districts if their little one’s college requires face masks.

A stimulus check.The Treasury Department despatched the letter to state officers on Friday, Jan. 14.REUTERS

The Treasury Department argues that the way in which Arizona’s college applications are presently structured is an “ineligible” use of the federal pandemic assist.

“By discouraging families and school districts from following (the CDC’s) guidance, the conditions referenced above undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Treasury Department wrote in its letter.

Treasury officers stated they may begin recovering the federal aid cash Arizona has already been despatched, and can withhold the subsequent lot of assist, if the state doesn’t amend the provisions.

Arizona has already obtained about half of the $4.2 billion the state was awarded underneath President Biden’s $1.9 trillion aid bundle.

Two young boys wait to receive their COVID vaccines in Phoenix in Nov. 2021.Two younger boys wait to obtain their COVID vaccines in Phoenix in Nov. 2021.AP

Gov. Ducey slammed the Biden administration on Friday, saying the threats to withhold assist from his state was “latest example of a President that is completely out of touch with the American people.”

“When it comes to education, President Biden wants to continue focusing on masks. In Arizona, we’re going to focus on math and getting kids caught up after a year of learning loss,” he tweeted.

“We will respond to this letter, and we will continue to focus on things that matter to Arizonans. President Biden should do the same, and he can start by addressing the crisis at the border.”

Gov. Ducey is amongst a handful of GOP governors who’ve ripped Biden over federal masks, testing or vaccine mandates all through the pandemic.

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