Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop awarding federal COVID relief funding to schools that opt not to comply with health recommendations such as wearing masks.
As reported in The Arizona Republic, Ducey's legal team made its case in a 24-page legal filing. Ducey asked a judge to block the U.S. Department of the Treasury from withholding or clawing back COVID-19 stimulus funds.
As recently as last week, administration officials were threatening to do so.
''The Biden administration is attempting to hold congressionally-appropriated funds hostage and is trying to bully Arizona into complying with this power-grabbing move,'' Ducey said in a statement, the news organization reported.
Ducey, a Republican, and the Biden administration have collided since October over two education programs the governor created, programs that rely on $173 million in American Rescue Plan aid from the feds. The funding was tied to an Arizona law that bars COVID-19 mandates in schools.
Indeed, only schools that didn't impose such mandates, which many conservative Republicans view as freedom-quashing federal government overreach, were eligible for money.
Though a state court tossed that law, Ducey has continued the programs.
The Grand Canyon State's complaint comes despite rising COVID infection tallies and growing issues with school attendeance and staffing, the Republic said. It was against the backdrop of that ongoing, deepening pandemic and the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus that the Treasurey Department pressed Arizona over its use of virus funding.
The state argues in its filing that Treasury's final rule dictating how this funding is used goes far beyond the scope of the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March. It was explicitly stated earelier that the money could not be used in just two ways, the complaint said: to cut taxes or shore up pension payments.
The Treasury's final rule, announced on Jan. 6, specified that money could not be used in a way that "undermines efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."
This is a key point in the argument by Ducey, who maintains Treasury should not be delving into public health matters and cannot apply restrictions retroactively.
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