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

CoronavirusOct 06, 2021 12:40AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign advertises free masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the downtown bus station in Tucson, Arizona, U.S., June 20, 2020. REUTERS/Cheney Orr

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told Arizona's governor on Tuesday that his state could not use federal funds to pay for programs aimed at undermining face mask requirements in schools, and said Arizona could lose funding if it did not change course.

In a letter to Governor Douglas Ducey, Adeyemo raised concerns about two new Arizona state programs funded under the coronarivus relief "American Rescue Plan" which he said would "undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19." The disease continues to pose an imminent threat, killing over 1,500 Americans every day in recent weeks, he said.

Adeyemo's letter comes a month after the U.S. Department of Education opened civil rights investigations https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-education-dept-opens-investigations-5-states-regarding-bans-universal-masking-2021-08-30 to determine whether five states - Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah - that have banned schools from requiring masks are discriminating against students with disabilities.

One of the Arizona programs offers grants to school districts on condition they not require the use of face coverings during instructional hours. The second gives families a voucher of up to $7,000 per student to cover tuition or other educational costs at a new school that does not require face coverings if the student's current school requires them.

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

Both programs tapped a $350 billion fund established under the American Rescue Plan to mitigate the fiscal effects of the COVID-19 emergency, which has killed over 700,000 people in the United States, Adeyemo said in his letter.

"A program or service that imposes conditions on participation or acceptance of the service that would undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 or discourage compliance with evidence-based solutions for stopping the spread of COVID-19 is not a permissible use of (such) funds," he said.

Adeyemo asked Ducey to respond within 30 days on how Arizona planned to come into compliance with the federal requirements, warning that "failure to respond or remediate may result in administrative or other action." Such action could include federal efforts to recoup the funds, a Treasury official said.

Arizona officials are reviewing the letter and will respond, said Ducey's spokesperson C.J. Karamargin.

"While the Biden administration continues to focus on mandates, here in Arizona we trust families to make decisions around what's best for their children," he said, adding that the voucher program was giving families in need access to resources like tutoring, child care and transportation.

Florida, Texas and Arkansas have also banned mandatory masking orders in schools. The Education Department left those states and Arizona out of its inquiry because court orders or other actions have paused their enforcement, it said in a news release.

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

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Comments (4)
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Oct 06, 2021 2:59AM ET
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John Avenetti is a 'Dr.'  Interesting. And he still has difficulty catching onto basic logic about vaccination and the lungs of unvaccinated people falling prey to mutations that cause the rest of the population to take booster shots to fight the new mutations, at great expense to the public purse. Unbelievable. You didn't know that unvaccinated people are slowly dying out?
Forex Harbingers
Forex Harbingers Oct 06, 2021 2:59AM ET
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You do realize virus's mutate when exposed to something that destroys it, so it can survive right? So if the unvaccinated individuals provide the perfect virus replication center, it wouldn't need to mutate. Take for instance penicillins ineffectiveness against numerous virus's it used to be effective against. Your argument is flawed. Now lets put actual stats into the equation. Less than 1% of the American have been infected, of that 1%, less than 2% have died. So your statement that the unvaccinated are slowly dying out is an ignorant one. Please educate yourself
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Oct 06, 2021 2:55AM ET
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Goes to show that the GOP doesn't care about 1,500 Americans every day in recent weeks. The gov't is the friend of the people because Americans can't follow basic logic. Americans who won't wear masks are not only going to die out slowly but also cause more mutations in their unvaxxed lungs which causes big expenses to the rest of the population when they need to take booster shots to fight the new mutations caused by the unvaxxed Americans. It's such a shame that Americans are so slow in the head: 2020 Jan to 2021 Oct, my oh my, ridiculous. People who still have trouble with what we saw in Asia in 2020 January, all over youtube and internet media, and Americans are still struggling with BASIC ISSUES. Hurry up Americans and sit down before you hurt yourself.
Forex Harbingers
Forex Harbingers Oct 06, 2021 2:55AM ET
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Virus's mutate to survive, not because they are in the perfect petri dish. Vaccinated individuals are causing the mutations, sorry to break your bubble.
John Avenetti
John Avenetti Oct 06, 2021 1:49AM ET
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this is a complete worldwide scam. sports stadiums, concerts, award shows and the life wear no masks. the federal government has become the enemy of the people. this virus is created for depopualtion and dies the opposite of what they claim.
Vlad Lozovskiy
Vlad Lozovskiy Oct 06, 2021 12:19AM ET
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I would rather loose funding but let kids breathe
Daniil Mosiyenko
Daniil Mosiyenko Oct 06, 2021 12:19AM ET
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They can breath through the mask also + mask protect them from other deceises like flu, common cold, etc. which they used to bring home from schools infecting their parents sometimes. Also they have time outside and breaks where they can take their masks off.
John Avenetti
John Avenetti Oct 06, 2021 12:19AM ET
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you're s sheep, too u have no clue what you're talking about and are completely wrong. I'm a doctor BTW. why do you feel you can pretend to know what you're saying us true? the TV told you. sad
 
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