White House says COVID-19 relief funds will cover Florida schools punished by Gov. Ron DeSantis over mask mandates

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Florida public schools who have their funding stripped by state officials for imposing mask mandates can use federal COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan.

“The American Rescue Plan funds that were distributed to Florida were meant to provide assistance to schools. Those can be used to cover expenses that come up in this period of time,” she said.

Psaki's comments came after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order barring mask mandates in public schools. The order gave the state Department of Education the ability to withhold funding from school districts that impose mask mandates on students. The governor's office further threatened to withhold the salaries of superintendents who ordered students to wear masks. To this, Psaki echoed earlier comments from the Biden administration about Florida's coronavirus response.

“Get out of the way and let public officials, let local officials do their jobs to keep students safe. And we know based on public health guidelines that kids are not eligible for vaccines, masks can have a huge impact,” she said.

Many districts have signaled that they plan to ignore the governor's mandate.

Florida is in the midst of a record coronavirus surge. Hospitalizations, deaths and cases have all been climbing for weeks since the state overturned all local emergency orders and barred municipal governments from enforcing mask mandates.

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