Arizona governor appeals ruling against state limiting COVID relief to open schools

While Arizona had lifted all mask mandates in April 2021, some schools still maintained a mask requirement.

Updated: July 23, 2022 - 11:56pm

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Gov. Doug Ducey is appealing a federal judge's decision blocking his decision to withhold federal COVID-19 relief to unopened schools.

While Arizona had lifted all mask mandates in April 2021, some schools still maintained a mask requirement.

To incentivize the removal of classroom mask policies, Ducey restricted a $163 million aid package to maskless, opened schools. The aid amounts to $1,080 per student. The state funding came from the $2 billion in federal stimulus money from the American Recovery Plan Act.

“Safety recommendations are welcomed and encouraged – mandates that place more stress on students and families aren’t,” Ducey said last year. “These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students.”

On Jan. 6, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen issued an amendment in response, “Recipients may not use funds for a program that undermines practices included in the CDC’s guidelines and recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

After multiple letters by the Treasury warning of a rescinding of funds, Gov. Ducey filed a complaint on Jan. 21.

Plaintiff Gov. Ducey cited the initial requirement of the American Recovery Plan Act, “to respond to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality…”

The complaint was struck down on Tuesday by United States District Judge Steven Logan. Court documents show Ducey appealed the ruling Friday.