Treasury says Arizona can't use federal COVID-19 aid for anti-mask education grants

Treasury says Arizona can't use federal COVID-19 aid for anti-mask education grants
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The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday ordered Arizona Gov. Doug DuceyDoug DuceyTrump to attend fundraiser for Arizona GOP Senate candidate Arizona defies demand it stop using COVID-19 relief money for anti-mask schools Republicans poised to sweep Virginia, stunning Democrats MORE (R) to stop allotting federal pandemic funding toward grants for school systems in the state that do not have mask mandates, saying the grants are “not a permissible use” of the funds.

In a letter to Ducey, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally AdeyemoWally AdeyemoDOJ charges two Iranians with interference in 2020 election Hillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — Tackling the misinformation 'crisis' US and Israel announce joint task force on cybersecurity MORE pushed back on the grants, noting that their requirements “undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.” He also stated that the governor will have just 30 days to provide an explanation on how to “remediate” the problem, according to The Associated Press.

Ducey created the grant programs in August in an effort to place more pressure on school districts that went against his state's ban on mask mandates. Through the program, $163 million funding was made available to schools that did not have mask mandates and an additional $10 million program provides vouchers to families of children in public schools that are required to quarantine due to contact with someone who has COVID-19, the AP noted.

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At his announcement of the program, Ducey reportedly called for schools to place the decision on whether children should wear masks with their parents.

"Parents are in the driver's seat, and it's their right to make decisions that best fit the needs of their children. Safety recommendations are welcomed and encouraged — mandates that place more stress on students and families aren't," Ducey said at the time. "These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona's students."

Ducey's spokesperson, C.J. Karamargin, told the AP on Tuesday that it is “baffling” that anyone would be opposed to Arizona's grant program.

“Following the challenges during the 2020 school year, everyone’s primary focus should be equipping families with the resources to get their kids caught up. That’s exactly what this program does — giving families in need the opportunity to access educational resources like tutoring, child care, transportation and more,” Karamargin said in a statement.

According to Karamargin, Ducey has reviewed the letter and plans to respond.