WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is threatening to recoup COVID-19 relief funds sent to Arizona over state provisions it says discourage families and school districts from following federal guidance recommending face coverings in schools.
At issue are two state programs that are meant to help schools and students, but that direct funding away from jurisdictions with mask requirements.
The Treasury Department warns in a Friday letter that Arizona has 60 days to remove the anti-masking provisions before the federal government moves to recover the relief money.
It also threatens to withhold the next tranche of aid.
Arizona has received about half of the $4.2 billion awarded to it under the 2021 coronavirus relief bill.
Gov. Doug Ducey sounded off on the letter later Friday morning, saying Biden's administration is "out of touch with the American people" and should instead focus on assisting Arizona with ongoing border issues.
"When it comes to education, President Biden wants to continue focusing on masks. In Arizona, we’re going to focus on math and getting kids caught up after a year of learning loss," Ducey said in a Friday tweet.
We will respond to this letter, and we will continue to focus on things that matter to Arizonans. President Biden should do the same, and he can start by addressing the crisis at the border. 5/5— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) January 14, 2022
Ducey's staff in November had sent a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department that ignored the department’s demand that he stop using the money to fund an education grant program that could only go to schools without mask mandates.