Jan 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden admin threatens to take back Arizona's COVID aid over anti-mask rules

Picture of Gov. Doug Ducey speaking into several microphones
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden administration warned Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) that it will take back the state's COVID-19 relief aid if it does not redesign programs that use the funding to discourage schools from mandating masks.

Driving the news: The state has two programs that are directed to schools and students. However, these programs take funding away from jurisdictions that have imposed mask requirements in schools, AP reports.

  • One of the programs provides $163 million in funding to schools that do not require face coverings. Another one offers up to $7,000 for parents if their kid's school mandates masks, AP notes.

State of play: The Treasury Department sent a letter to Ducey saying that he has 60 days to redesign those programs in a way that meets the aid's intent, which is to help curb the pandemic, per the Washington Post.

  • The department also said the administration will withhold future federal aid if no changes are implemented.

What they're saying: "By discouraging families and school districts from following this guidance, the conditions referenced above undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19," the Treasury Department's letter said, per AP.

  • "Accordingly, these school programs as currently structured are ineligible uses of" the federal aid.

The other side: "This letter is the latest example of a President that is completely out of touch with the American people," Ducey said on Twitter.

  • "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 added.
  • "We will respond to this letter, and we will continue to focus on things that matter to Arizonans. President Biden should do the same."

Don't forget: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal indoor masking in all schools, regardless of vaccination status.

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