Treasury: Arizona risks relief funds over anti-mandate rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is threatening to claw back COVID-19 relief funds sent to Arizona over state provisions it says discourage families and school districts from following federal guidelines recommending face coverings in schools.

These are two state programs intended to help schools and students, but direct funding away from jurisdictions with mask requirements. Arizona’s Education Plus-Up grant program provides $163 million in funding to schools, but districts that require face coverings are not eligible. And its COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit program provides up to $7,000 for parents if their child’s school requires face coverings.

In a Friday letter, the Treasury Department warned the state has 60 days to remove anti-masking provisions before the federal government claws back the relief money, and it also threatened to hold the next installment. help.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask wearing in school settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“By discouraging families and school districts from following this advice, the above conditions undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Treasury Department wrote. “As a result, these school programs as currently structured are ineligible uses of the (Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds).”

Arizona has already received about half of the $4.2 billion given to the state under the 2021 coronavirus relief bill.

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