Arizona sues to block Treasury from recovering relief funds

WASHINGTON — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sued the Biden administration on Friday to block its efforts to claw back pandemic relief money the...


WASHINGTON — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sued the Biden administration on Friday to block its efforts to claw back pandemic relief money the state used to reduce mask requirements in schools.

The lawsuit is the latest legal fight between a Republican-led state and the Biden administration over how the $350 billion in state and local pandemic aid that Congress allocated last year can be used. . This follows a series of warnings from the Treasury Department that Arizona could lose some of the $4.2 billion awarded to it under the bailout package.

The funds in question relate to two education programs that Mr. Ducey, a Republican, implemented last year in response to mask requirements that some school districts across the state enacted. The state unsuccessfully tried to enact a law banning school mask mandates last year, but Mr. Ducey continues to oppose rules that mandate them.

The state used federal money to help schools and students circumvent warrants. A $163 million program, funded by federal relief money, provides up to $1,800 per student to public and charter schools, but excludes schools that need masks.

A separate $10 million program funds vouchers worth up to $7,000 to help poor families move out of districts that require face coverings or impose other Covid-related “constraints”.

The Treasury Department has insisted that these programs violate the intent of the $1.9 trillion stimulus act of 2021, which was intended to mitigate the coronavirus by giving states funds to maintain public services and support businesses and households affected by the health crisis.

The Treasury Department first issued a warning to Mr. Ducey in October, warning that funds used for these programs could be clawed back if Arizona did not stop or modify them. The federal government has said Arizona’s programs undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 and federal funds cannot be used for those purposes.

In a second warning last week, the Treasury Department said that if Arizona does not cease or modify the programs within 60 days, the federal government could initiate a process to recover the money it says was misused. The Treasury also said it may withhold the second installment of relief money Arizona is expected to receive this year.

Mr Ducey rejected those arguments and on Friday said the state would retaliate.

“The Biden administration is trying to hold funds appropriated by Congress hostage and trying to bully Arizona into complying with this takeover decision,” said Mr. Ducey. “They are looking for educational programs designed to help children access in-person education, ensure schools remain open, and empower parents to make the best decisions for their children.”

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich this week sent Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen a letter suggesting the state was preparing to take its concerns to court amid what he saw as a “flagrant federal encroachment”.

The trial, filed in U.S. District Court, argues that the Treasury Department is abusing its discretion to set conditions on how states spend pandemic aid. He accuses the Treasury Department of acting “arbitrarily and capriciously” in determining that stopping the spread of the coronavirus is a condition for using relief funds. And he says the Treasury Department doesn’t have the expertise to make public health claims.

Congress approved state and local relief funds in March as part of the US bailout. Republicans opposed the law, but across the country used the money to fill state coffers and try to implement conservative policies.

The law gave the Treasury Department wide discretion to set rules governing how the money is spent and ensuring it is not misused.

The Treasury Department on Friday defended its decision to restrict the use of relief funds.

“Treasury believes the rule is correct and authorized by law and the Constitution,” Treasury spokeswoman Dayanara Ramirez said in a statement.

Several Republican-led states have already sued the Biden administration over a provision in the law that says states can’t use relief funds to subsidize tax cuts, saying the restriction is a violation of sovereignty. of State.

Mr. Ducey made a similar argument on Friday about attempts to shut down his education programs.

“The unconstitutional overreaching of one branch of government over the directive of another should not and cannot stand in the way of that,” he said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Arizona sues to block Treasury from recovering relief funds
Arizona sues to block Treasury from recovering relief funds
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