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Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Education on Thursday reimbursed about $148,000 to a Florida school district that was penalized for mandating masks for in-person learning.

Why it matters: The award is the first under the administration's Project to Support America's Families and Educators grant program. Florida had withheld funds from Alachua County in August, after it defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' order banning mask mandates in schools.

What they're saying: "The funding will help districts keep these measures in place and maintain district and school stability despite the financial penalty," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

  • "With these grants, we're making sure schools and communities across the country that are committed to safely returning to in-person learning know that we have their backs."

State of play: The U.S. Department of Education announced in August that it had launched investigations into five GOP-led states — Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah — that banned mask mandates in schools.

Go deeper

Florida's secret delta toll

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Roughly 4,500 Tampa Bay residents — an average of about 36 per day — died from COVID-19 over the four months the Florida Department of Health did not share daily pandemic information with citizens.

Driving the news: The data is now available and gives a clearer picture of the heartbreaking toll of the latest record-breaking spikes from the delta variant — which is only now subsiding — between June and October.

11 hours ago - Podcasts

Biden, Manchin and climate change

There was lots of news over the weekend about West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to a crucial piece of President Biden's proposed climate agenda. That piece would encourage wind, solar, and other zero carbon sources of clean electricity. Axios' Ben Geman has a reality check.

  • Plus, how the U.S. Secretary of Education says he's tackling crises in our public schools.
  • And, the history of American newspapers promoting lynching.

Guests: Axios' Ben Geman and Jonathan Swan; DeNeen Brown, associate professor at the University of Maryland and Washington Post reporter.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Alex Sugiura, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Michael Hanf, and David Toledo. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID-19 complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.