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Coronavirus

Arizona Can’t Use COVID Money for Anti-Mask Grants, Feds Say

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday ordered Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to stop using the state’s federal pandemic funding on a pair of new education grants that can only be directed to schools without mask mandates.

In a letter to Ducey, the Treasury Department says the grant programs are “not a permissible use” of the funding. The Treasury Department says the conditions “undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Ducey, a Republican, created the grant programs in August. He launched a $163 million grant program using federal funding he controls, but he made it available only to schools without mask mandates.

Education advocates have filed a lawsuit over Arizona’s mask ban and several other state laws that restrict the power of local governments and school districts to impose COVID-19 requirements.

Those policies conflict with guidance from the CDC, which recommends universal mask wearing for students and teachers in the classroom. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo asked Arizona officials to explain how it will remedy the problem within 30 days.

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