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Arizona could lose $22 million in federal COVID education relief funds

A dispute between two top state officials could result in Arizona losing up to $22 million in federal COVID relief funds for schools.

Some of that money has to be spent by the end of the month.

The Arizona Department of Education’s Steven Paulson wrote letters claiming Gov. Katie Hobbs removed the department’s authority to administer the funds.

In her response, Hobbs said the U.S. Department of Education removed the state agency’s authority because it hasn’t provided details about what grants have been awarded.

While Hobbs has attempted to send a new spending agreement to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, he has refused to sign it. 

Both parties dispute how much money is actually at risk of being lost by this month’s deadline.

Neither have provided proof for their claims of who revoked the state department’s authority. 

The dollars are part of a federal law approved to provide more COVID relief funds for education.

This cash was specifically earmarked for non-public schools, with a focus on those that have at least 20% of their students from low-income families and are most impacted by the pandemic.

Only non-profit schools that were already in existence prior to March 13, 2020 are eligible. The schools also cannot have sought loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Eligible expenses include everything from personal protection equipment and sanitizing supplies to funding reasonable transportation costs and maintaining remote or hybrid instruction. Dollars could go directly to schools or to private contractors to provide the services.

According to Hobbs, Arizona got nearly $109 million, with $22.3 million still unallocated.

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Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.