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Brnovich battling to keep Feds from seizing $170 million in Arizona COVID relief funds

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich
Posted at 4:43 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 15:45:41-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN-TV) — Arizona’s Attorney General says he’s prepping for another battle against the Federal Government. This one is over a Federal threat to take back millions of dollars in COVID relief funds.

The Federal Government said Governor Doug Ducey had no business using about $170 million in COVID relief funds to work against government recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID.

The Governor created programs that send money to schools that do not enforce mask mandates, and to parents who may want to transfer their children to those schools.

When the Treasury Department sent a letter threatening to take back that money, the Governor said, “Well, my message to the Biden Administration is number one, we’ll see you in court. Number two fix the border.”

But actually going to court for the state is the Attorney General’s department.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent his own letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin that basically said, back off, you’re claiming authority you don’t really have.

The president cannot under the ninth and 10th amendment, impose any of these additional conditions. And furthermore, when Congress passed the Recovery Act, they did not put these conditions in. And so no administration, whether the republican or democrat can impose conditions that Congress didn't include.

But the Treasury letter points to rules the Administration wrote to control where the COVID relief goes and those rules say the money can not be used to undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Brnovich concedes there are times when Federal money does include specific conditions on how to spend it but he contends this is not one of those times.

“Sometimes you may get a highway grant or, you know, there's other instances where that happens. Congress allocates those funds, not only for a specific purpose, but attaches certain specific conditions. And in this instance, the Biden administration is trying to unilaterally impose new conditions that Congress didn't include.”

The Treasury Department set about a two month deadline to comply or return the money. It’s also threatening not to send other money down the COVID response pipeline.