The Biden administration is threatening to take back more than $170 million in COVID-19 aid from Arizona over anti-mask rules, reports The Washington Post.
The Treasury Department in a letter to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting said the state has 60 days to either make changes to two federally subsidized state school programs or redirect the money toward “eligible uses.”
The funds are intended “to mitigate the fiscal effects stemming from the COVID-19 public health emergency, including by supporting efforts to stop the spread of the virus,” the Treasury Department noted in the letter.
But Arizona’s two school programs use the federal money to “impose conditions on participating in or accepting a service that undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and discourage compliance with evidence-based solutions for stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
The $163 million Education Plus-Up Grant Program allows funds to be given only to schools that do not enforce mask requirements. The other program, totaling $10 million, provides grant money to help parents move their children out of schools that are deemed to be imposing “unnecessary closures and school mandates.”
That program “is available only to families if the student’s current or prior school requires the use of face coverings” during the school day, the Treasury’s letter said.
A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But Ducey, in a statement in August announcing the spending, said, “Safety recommendations are welcomed and encouraged — mandates that place more stress on students and families aren’t.
“These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students.”