Biden administration threatens to claw again Covid funds from…

Biden administration threatens to claw back Covid funds from...


U.S. first woman Jill Biden speaks with individuals throughout a tour of a COVID-19 vaccination website at Isaac Center College in Phoenix, Arizona, June 30, 2021.

Carolyn Kaster | Pool | Reuters

The Biden administration on Friday threatened to rescind hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in federal coronavirus assist for Arizona, accusing the state of utilizing the funds to undermine efforts to cease the unfold of the virus.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s workplace has 60 days to both change two federally sponsored state faculty applications totaling $173 million, or redirect the cash towards “eligible makes use of,” the Treasury Division stated in a letter.

The applications impose circumstances that discourage compliance with carrying masks in faculties, contradicting steering from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention on tips on how to scale back Covid transmission, the letter stated.

If Arizona fails or refuses to adjust to Treasury’s calls for, the Biden administration might claw again that stimulus cash and withhold a second tranche of pandemic aid funding, Treasury stated.

Ducey’s workplace didn’t instantly reply to CNBC’s request for touch upon the letter.

The federal funds in dispute come from the Coronavirus State and Native Fiscal Restoration Funds program, or SLFRF, a $350 billion chunk of the multitrillion-dollar Covid aid package deal, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, that President Joe Biden signed into regulation final 12 months.

The funds are supposed “to mitigate the fiscal results stemming from the COVID-19 public well being emergency, together with by supporting efforts to cease the unfold of the virus,” Treasury famous within the letter to Ducey’s Workplace of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

However Arizona’s two faculty applications use the federal cash to “impose circumstances on taking part in or accepting a service that undermine efforts to cease the unfold of COVID-19 and discourage compliance with evidence-based options for stopping the unfold of COVID-19,” the letter stated.

The $163 million Education Plus-Up Grant Program, for example, permits funds be given solely to varsities that don’t implement masks necessities, Treasury wrote.

The other program in question, totaling $10 million, supplies grant cash to assist mother and father transfer their children out of colleges which can be deemed to be imposing “pointless closures and faculty mandates.”

That program “is out there solely to households if the coed’s present or prior faculty requires using face coverings” through the faculty day, Treasury’s letter stated.

The newest letter, despatched by performing Deputy Chief Compliance Officer Kathleen Victorino of the Treasury Workplace of Restoration Packages, follows months of back-and-forth between the Biden administration and the Grand Canyon State.

The Treasury Division in October had requested Arizona to elucidate how it might repair the problems recognized within the two faculty applications.

The state responded a month later, detailing its rationale for the anti-mask circumstances however failing to “describe any plans for remediation of the problems recognized,” Victorino wrote.

The newest struggle over Covid security guidelines comes because the extremely transmissible omicron variant fuels an unprecedented surge in instances. The U.S. Supreme Court docket on Thursday blocked enforcement of the Biden administration’s rule for workers in giant firms to both get vaccinated or obtain weekly testing, however the excessive court docket left intact a vaccine mandate for health-care staff.

However the disputes precede omicron. Final 12 months, Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature tried to move provisions banning masks mandates and different Covid security measures. In November, the state Supreme Court docket ruled that those measures were passed illegally.

CNBC’s Tom Franck contributed to this report.



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