The Biden administration on Friday said it wouldn't withhold federal coronavirus aid from Arizona after demanding earlier this year that the state stop sending millions in federal COVID-19 relief money to schools that don't have mask requirements or that close due to outbreaks, reports The New York Times.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, in late January sued the Biden administration over its demand that the state either restructure the $163 million program to eliminate restrictions it says undermine public health recommendations or face a repayment demand.
"Nothing in that underlying statute authorizes Treasury to condition the use of (ARPA) monies on following measures that, in the view of Treasury, stop the spread of COVID-19," the lawsuit said.
"If Congress had truly intended to give Treasury the power to dictate public health edicts to the States, and recoup or withhold (monies) … it would have spoken clearly on the matter. It did not."
The Arizona Legislature banned school mask mandates in 2021. Some schools kept the mandates in place. Ducey in April signed legislation that prohibits government agencies from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations and bars schools from mandating masks for students under age 18 unless their parents approve.
He also introduced two education programs intended for mask-shirking education programs in his state, including a $163 million federally funded grant program launched in 2021 for schools that stay open during the pandemic.
A spokesman for Ducey told the Times it had received its second payment of about $2.1 billion last month.
Arizona was awarded $4.2 billion as part of its share of the $350 billion set aside for states and cities to help states during the pandemic.
A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department would not disclose to the Times why the money had been released.
"Treasury does not comment on matters in its compliance process," Dayanara Ramirez said.
Solange Reyner ✉
Solange Reyner is a writer and editor for Newsmax. She has more than 15 years in the journalism industry reporting and covering news, sports and politics.
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