The Biden administration is threatening to claw back federal COVID-19 relief funding from Arizona unless the state stops directing the money to schools without mask mandates.
In a letter sent Friday, the Treasury Department said Arizona's $163 million Education Plus-Up Grant Program and its COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit Program undermine efforts to stop the coronavirus.
The programs, funded with payments from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, impose conditions that discourage compliance with wearing masks in schools, contradicting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to reduce COVID-19 transmission, the letter said.
The $350 billion state and local funding program was enacted as part of the American Rescue Plan.
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,” Treasury noted in the letter.
The state's Plus-Up Grant Program only directs funding to schools that don't have mask requirements, and the $10 million Educational Recovery Benefit Program provides up to $7,000 per student to parents facing financial and educational barriers due to having children in 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, according to the Treasury letter.
According to the letter, Gov. Doug DuceyDoug DuceySome in GOP begin testing party's lockstep loyalty to Trump Trump slams Biden, voices unsubstantiated election fraud claims at first rally of 2022 Trump to make election claims center stage in Arizona MORE's (R) office has 60 days to redirect federal funds to eligible users or change the two programs so they are in compliance.
If not, the federal government said it will move to recover the relief money. The Treasury Department threatened to withhold the next tranche of aid as well.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Ducey blasted President BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE for being "out of touch the American people."