Treasury warns Arizona it cannot use federal funds to undermine mask standards

WASHINGTON, Oct.5 (Reuters) – Assistant Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told Arizona governor on Tuesday that his state cannot use federal funds to pay for programs to undermine face mask requirements in schools, and said Arizona could lose funds if that doesn’t change. Classes.

In a letter to Governor Douglas Ducey, Adeyemo expressed concerns about two new Arizona state programs funded as part of the coronary heart disease “US bailout” which he said ” undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 ”. The disease continues to pose an imminent threat, killing more than 1,500 Americans every day in recent weeks, he said.

Adeyemo’s letter comes a month after the US Department of Education launched civil rights investigations to determine whether five states – Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah – that have banned schools from requiring masks discriminates against students with disabilities.

One of Arizona’s programs offers grants to school districts on the condition that they do not require the use of face coverings during instructional hours. The second offers families a voucher of up to $ 7,000 per student to cover tuition or other education costs at a new school that does not require a face covering if the current school in l the student demands it.

Ducey announced the two programs in August after some Arizona school districts defied the ban on school mask mandates passed by the state’s Republican legislature this year.

The two programs tapped into a $ 350 billion fund established as part of the US bailout to mitigate the tax effects of the COVID-19 emergency, which has killed more than 700,000 people in the United States, said Adeyemo in his letter.

“A program or service that imposes conditions of participation or acceptance of the service that would undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 or discourage adherence to evidence-based solutions to stop the spread of COVID-19 n ‘This is not an authorized use of (such) funds,’ he said.

Adeyemo asked Ducey to respond within 30 days on how Arizona plans to comply with federal requirements, warning that “failure to respond or correct could result in administrative or other action.” Such action could include federal efforts to recover the funds, a Treasury official said.

Arizona officials are reviewing the letter and will respond to it, Ducey spokesman CJ Karamargin said.

“As the Biden administration continues to focus on mandates, here in Arizona we trust families to make decisions about what’s best for their children,” he said, adding that the program vouchers gave families in need access to resources such as tutoring, childcare and transportation.

Florida, Texas and Arkansas have also banned mandatory masking orders in schools. The Education Department has excluded those states and Arizona from its investigation because court orders or other actions have suspended their execution, he said in a press release.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Mark Porter, Sonya Hepinstall and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Christopher Easley

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