Arizona lawsuit dismissed by Judge over virus relief fund limits

PHOENIX — Arizona Governor. Doug Ducey filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration demanding that millions of federal COVID relief money be stopped to Arizona schools.

The state brought the suit earlier in the year, after Ducey was asked by the U.S. Treasury Department to restructure its $163million program and remove restrictions that it claims undermine public health guidelines.

The Treasury Department wanted to make changes to the $10million program Ducey established that provides tuition money for private schools to parents who have children whose schools are subject to mask mandates.

In a decision earlier in the week, U.S. district Judge Steven Logan ruled that it was reasonable for Biden’s administration to state that money could not be used on activities that would violate COVID -19 prevention guidelines. A program that does not adhere to guidelines could worsen the pandemic or create even more adverse effects. This is against the purposes of the relief fund.

While Ducey claimed that the American Rescue Plan Act was unclear in its conditions for using relief money, the judge agreed to the Biden administration’s argument that the permitted uses of the funds were allowed under the law. The Treasury Department’s authorization to issue regulations was also a way for the government and the State to be aware about conditions for accepting the money.

Ducey’s attorneys have stated in court records, that the governor appeals the decision. C.J. Ducey spokeswoman Karamargin stated that Saturday’s decision was being reviewed by the governor’s offices.

The lawsuit claimed that the Treasury Department placed restrictions on Arizona’s spending of the American Rescue Plan Act funds on its own without any legal authority. The Treasury Department requested a court declare its rules illegal, and to permanently stop enforcement. It also asked for repayment of the funds spent on these programs.

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In October, the Treasury Department demanded that Ducey alter his programs. This was part of an effort to make Arizona, and other Republican-led States that oppose mask mandates and were using pandemic funds to further their agendas to stop those practices, compelled to change the programs.

Ducey denied Treasury’s request in the next month. The Biden administration then followed up by a formal demand to stop using the money for the disputable programs. It could also face repayment demands, or withholding additional funds it was set to receive under the COVID -19 relief legislation.

Two state programs that the Republican Governor created in order to aid students and schools are at issue.

Arizona’s Education Plus Up Grant Program offers $163 millions in funding for schools located in areas of higher income that have received less federal virus aid than $1 ,800 per pupil. Ineligible districts are those that need face covers or have been closed because of virus outbreaks.

Another program called COVID -19 Education Recovery Benefit Program offers parents up to $7 ,000 if their child is required to wear face covers or be quarantined after being exposed. This program allows parents to use their money for tuition at private schools or any other educational costs. Its design is similar to the existing state school voucher program.

Ducey developed the programs to increase pressure on schools that have mask mandates and other COVID -19 restrictions. He claimed they were hurting parents and children who had suffered more than one year of school closures, remote learning, and other restrictions.

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For more information visit The Washington Times COVID -19 resource site.

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