• October 20, 2021

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

Oct 6, 2021

The Biden administration on Tuesday ordered Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to cease utilizing the state’s federal pandemic funding on a pair of latest 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 most recent try by the Biden administration to push again in opposition to 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 out there 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 throughout the 2020 college 12 months, everybody’s major focus needs to be equipping households with the sources to get their youngsters caught up. That is precisely what this program does — giving households in want the chance to entry instructional sources like tutoring, baby 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 one in every of no less than 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 might 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 Schooling Division individually promised to repay college 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 college 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 prohibit the facility of native governments and college 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 kids and lecturers within the classroom. The CDC issued the steerage in gentle of the fast unfold of the extremely contagious delta variant of COVID-19.

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