Gov. Doug Ducey’s programs to discourage COVID-19 mandates in schools violate funding rules, feds say

By Stacey Barchenger | Arizona Republic

Gov. Doug Ducey’s programs that reward school districts for not imposing COVID-19 related mandates violate federal rules, and U.S. Treasury officials warned Tuesday that they may claw back federal stimulus dollars unless the state makes changes.

Before Arizona received an initial $2 billion payment from the American Rescue Plan, the state agreed to follow spending terms that included combatting “fiscal effects stemming from the COVID-19 public health emergency, including by supporting efforts to stop the spread of the virus,” the Treasury Department’s second-in-command wrote in a letter to Ducey on Tuesday.

But two programs announced by Ducey in August “undermine evidence-based efforts” to stop the coronavirus and are “not a permissible use” of the money, the letter reads.

Those programs allocated up to $7,000 for families who want to move their children from schools that mandated masks or other COVID-19 precautions, and gave $1,800 per student to districts that did not impose mandates such as requiring quarantines for unvaccinated students.

The state has distributed at least $109 million of the $163 million available to school districts, according to information from the Governor’s Office.

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