The Lawrence County Quorum Court passed an ordinance on Monday night to establish a separate account for money the county will receive from American Rescue Plan funds.

The federal government has designated $350 billion to go to state and local governments for fiscal aid through the American Rescue Plan Act to assist in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds must be used according to guidelines, and justices discussed the best way to administer the funds.

While the county is anticipating receiving approximately $3.2 million when all funds are in, there are still questions to be answered on exactly how the money can be used.

“Lawrence County government is responsible for every dime of it,” County Judge John Thomison said, noting that if any of the funds are found to be used for something not following the guidelines they have to be repaid from county general.

County Treasurer Connie Mullen said everything will have to be approved by the court, just like with the CARES Act funds received. The need for monitoring how the money is spent after it is appropriated was also discussed.

Justice Alex Latham asked if it might be a good idea to hire someone to specifically administer the American Rescue Plan funds, which will be available for use through Dec. 21, 2024.

County Attorney Clay Sloan said they will be reviewing guidelines and looking to the state for guidance, but the first step of setting up a separate account for the funds was the right one.

“Now, just proceed cautiously,” he said. “Make sure all the Ts are crossed. This is brand new, the rules are being made as we play the game.”

Budget Committee Chair Junior Briner said the funds will simply have to be used according to the guidelines set forth.

“The money will have its rules and regulations, just like a bond has rules and regulations,” he said.

In addition to the money received by the county, every incorporated municipality within the county will receive funds through the program.

Also on Monday, justices passed an ordinance to pay $84,284.60 in medical bills that were not paid by Gerber Insurance.

The insurance company refused to pay the claims, and Lawrence County is currently part of a lawsuit with other counties regarding unpaid claims.

The court had voted to pay the medical bills at last month’s meeting, but an ordinance was needed for the action.

Judge Thomison said the ordinance allows the county to pay the medical expenses as advised by counsel and seek reimbursement through the lawsuit.

The money is being used from the Covid-reimbursement funds the county received from the state as part of the CARES Act. Any reimbursement received through the suit will go back into that fund.

In other business:

It was discussed that the budget committee would need to meet soon to look at appropriating additional money due to extra expenses incurred for courthouse maintenance, including work done on the air conditioning.

A proclamation was passed expressing sympathy to Lawrence County Assessor Becky Holder and Justice Donald Richey and their families. Holder recently lost her husband, and Richey lost his father.

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