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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Where Did Lawrence County's CARES Act Money Go?

LAWRENCE COUNTY - (February 17, 2022) - Lawrence County received $1.4 Million in CARES Act money. Lawrence County Zephyr have obtained records of where the CARES Act Money has been spent. This came after questions were raised by local volunteer fire department request for CARES Act and ARP was denied by the Lawrence County Commissioners.


Marshall Twp. Fire Chief asked the commissioners for funds from ARP Funds and was denied the request. This comes after county fire department EMS personnel was not given or denied CARES Act Funds while being on the front lines of COVID-19


The spending guidelines for the CARES ACT funds were as followed:


  • Directly relate to COVID

  • Are not already allocated in the budget for approved before March 27, 2020

  • Were incurred on December 30, 2020, unused funds return to the federal government.

There is a total of $386,000 left in Lawrence County's CARES Act Funds.


Marion Township Volunteer Fire Department was denied their request for $89,000 for Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus which fell under the guidelines for COVID - emergency relief funds.


The Shawswick Volunteer Fire Department receive a total of $139.00 in CARES Act funds.


The other county volunteer fire departments did not receive any funds and the commissioners were concerned that those fire departments would be requesting CARES Act funds. This statement was detailed in emails obtained by the Lawrence County Zephyr.


File photo


The fire departments have continued to be on the front lines of the COVID pandemic. The fire departments having to wait 30-40 minutes for out of county ambulance to arrive at the scenes with COVID positive patients.


Many of the volunteer fire departments forced to isolate and miss their regular employment due to COVID exposure. Some EMS workers became ill a second time or had to isolate a second time.


The volunteer fire departments are still responding to these incidents without any kind of compensation.


Marion Township was denied $89,000 for SCBA which fell under guidelines for CARES ACT however the Lawrence County Commissioners approved $225,000 in police cars for the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department after the Lawrence County Council denied Sheriff's Branham's request in the 2022 budget



However, in emails exchanged between Marion Township Volunteer Fire Chief Paul Gillespie and Emergency Management Director Valarie Luchuaer, the Lawrence County Commissioners decided the funds will be best spent giving a stipend for county employees. This was a unilateral decision between the Lawrence County Commissioners and EMA Director Luchauaer.


Cares ACT Funds for a fourth courtroom was denied by the Lawrence County Council


The Lawrence County Zephyr has learned that the Lawrence County Commissioners appointed a committee of three people which included Eugene McCracken, Valarie Luchuaer, and Jody Edwards to decide where CARES Act Funds will be disbursed.


However, the committee never met, and there is no minutes of meetings to discuss who, what and where the CARES - ACT money was to be disbursed.


It should also be noted only Seals Ambulance Service received CARES Act funds; IU Lifeline was not given any funds.


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The only approval for CARES -ACT money during a Lawrence County Council meeting came when a fourth court room was proposed at the Lawrence County Plaza. A request for $200,000 was requested for a fourth courtroom at the Lawrence County Plaza.


During that meeting, Luchauer cautioned the county council cautioned the county council that the courtroom would deplete the fund and she had other requests for the funds. The request was denied by the Lawrence County Council.


Following that meeting, she never put in the additional request, and at this time those funds may have to be returned to the federal government or the county's general fund.


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Lawrence County Zephyr have obtained records of where some of the money was given to. These included non-profits and school corporations who already received CARES Act funds and ARP funds.


The volunteer fire departments were told by Commissioner Dustin Gabhart and Rodney Fish they cannot have access to the ARP funds.



Here is a partial list of where the CARES Act money was disbursed:


Employee Expenses

  • Bono Township Trustee - $58.72

  • Lawrence County Solid Waste District - $12,354

  • Lawrence County Highway - $26,210.99

  • Health Department -$32,293.40

  • Lawrence County Treasurer -$229,500

  • Total Employee expenses - $300,417.26

This is not a complete list of other agencies who received CARES ACT Funds


  • Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency - $78,475

  • Mitchell Community Schools - $39,420.05

  • St. Vincent De Paul School - $12, 868.24

  • North Lawrence Community Schools - $44,654

  • Seals Ambulance Service - $25,003

  • Priority Ambulance Service ( Seals Ambulance) - $25,003

  • Hoosier Uplands - $14,881

  • Lawrence County Emergency Management - $8,061.41

  • Lawrence County Emergency Managment - $24,689.35

  • Lawrence County Emergency Management - $4,341.37

  • Lawrence County Emergency Management - $37, 629

  • Mitchell Public Library - $6,703.16

Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham requested three police cars in the 2022 budget which was denied by the Lawrence County Council during this year's budget hearing.


Therefore, he requested the police cars to be purchased by the Lawrence County Commissioners and EMA director Valarie Luchuaer which was approved. The total cost of the cars and equipment for those purchases totaled $222,586.91.


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The Lawrence County Zephyr will continue to monitor developments in this story. To date, Lawrence County Commissioners have not responded or released a statment regarding this matter.


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