PHOENIX — Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs has recalled $210 million in COVID relief grants given out by her predecessor Doug Ducey, saying the money was handed out illegally.
The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was set up to help deal with COVID pandemic-related issues.
According to Hobbs' administration officials, Ducey's administration enacted a provision that allowed grants to be given out without a competitive bidding process. Officials said the Ducey administration extended the provision until the end of 2023 when it apparently lapsed.
The 19 grants Hobbs rescinded were granted in the final three days of the Ducey administration, the officials said.
“The Ducey administration clearly didn’t want us to have the freedom to exercise stewardship over these taxpayer funds," said Sean Berens, Chief Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel.
A spokesman for the former Ducey administration initially said he would comment but then didn't.
The 19 grants came from 16 different groups or agencies, according to records provided by the Hobbs administration.
Among them are grants for TGen, meant to be used for monitoring COVID-19 outbreaks and predicting future pandemics, and Valleywise Health Center for filling 440 vacant nursing positions.
Others relate to education and the arts. One $75 million grant would have continued Ducey's summer school program that was meant to supplement COVID-era education.
Other proposals mention COVID but with a distant relationship to the virus.
The TODAY Foundation, based in Texas, was granted $7 million for an Arizona history-based education curriculum.
“The state would have to pay $7 million for this curriculum whether or not any school district used it," Berens said.
According to Berens, the one-page proposal also claimed the curriculum would "push back" on critical race theory.
A message to the TODAY Foundation was not returned.
Berens said letters were sent to all 16 groups informing them their grants were canceled. The letters said Arizona would reimburse them for money they'd already spent.
Berens said those groups would be allowed to submit new proposals during a six-week window that will be open to competitive bids.
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