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Monday, December 6, 2021

Arizona’s Anti-Mask Grants Will Continue To Be Funded By COVID Funds

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona is ignoring a court order to stop using federal coronavirus relief funds to fund a school award program that can only go to schools that do not have mask regulations.

The Republican governor is also extending a program that provides private school vouchers to parents whose children’s schools are requiring masks or quarantines as a result of COVID-19 exposure.

Arizona’s Anti-Mask Grants Will Continue To Be Funded By COVID Funds

Ducey’s federal grant team manager defied the Treasury Agencies’ instruction that he halt spending the money in a letter submitted to the department on Thursday. Instead, Jason Mistlebauer said that the money was being used to help students who had been injured by school mask mandates. 

Arizona's Anti-Mask Grants Will Continue To Be Funded By COVID Funds

“In Arizona, poor communities bear the brunt of onerous regulations, and the state wants to ensure that mask mandates restrictions and school closures do not disproportionately affect low-income pupils,” Mistlebauer stated.

Despite Mistlebauer’s logic, a $163 million grant program launched by Ducey goes to high-income schools, but only if they don’t require masks. 

Furthermore, a much smaller program that provides private school vouchers to parents whose children’s public schools have mask restrictions or require seclusion following COVID-19 exposures does not exclusively target low-income children. People can get up to 350% of the federal poverty threshold, or $92,750 for a family of four.

The award programs were formed in August by Ducey, a Republican, to put pressure on school districts that have ignored the state’s ban on mask mandates. Although the ban was eventually overturned by the courts, Ducey has not eliminated the restrictions on which school districts are eligible.

The award programs are “not a lawful use” of government funds, according to the Treasury Department. It was part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to counter Republican governors’ opposition to mask mandates and other attempts to utilize federal pandemic funding to pursue their own agendas.

The conditions, according to Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, “undermine evidence-based attempts to limit the spread of COVID-19.” He demanded that the state explain how it plans to “remediate” the problem in the next 30 days.

Ducey’s spokeswoman avoided a question about why the governor’s office did not reply to the federal government’s demand that it stop funding unlawful projects.

C.J. Karamargin stated, “The federal government set out their position why they don’t think it’s acceptable.” “And we answered as they requested, providing our analysis of why we believe it is.”

Children and teachers in the classroom should wear masks at all times, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC released the advice in response to the fast spread of COVID-19’s highly contagious delta form.

COVID-19 outbreaks were found to be significantly higher in schools lacking mask restrictions, according to Maricopa County health officials. The August report to county supervisors was later utilized as the foundation for a CDC report. It should be noted that many schools are against mask mandates. 

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