Ashland County Office Building

Ashland County Office Building 

ASHLAND -- Ashland County’s first half of American Rescue Plan money is on its way, but the treasurer is worried her personal information could be compromised if not protected.

Angie McQuillen, the county treasurer, said Thursday during a County Commissioner’s meeting she would feel safer if commissioners purchased an identity theft policy for her.

The county is eligible to receive nearly $10.4 million from the ARP. The first half, $5.2 million, could hit county coffers as early as next week.

Before that money is wired, however, McQuillen had to apply for, or "claim," the funds, she said. The process -- which was identical for other communities across the state -- required her to provide her Social Security Number, a driver’s license number, a photo of herself and other personal information to the federal government’s online portal system,

The online system is being used to verify the identities of auditors and treasurers across Ohio applying for ARP allocations. The National Association of Counties, an organization that represents counties across the U.S., says is used for other governmental agencies and is “a trusted tech partner … and your information is safe.” 

But that doesn’t necessarily quell fears. Should get hacked or be the target of a cyber attack, her personal information could be compromised, McQuillen said.

Patrick Dropsey, Richland County’s auditor, has also expressed trepidation with sharing personal information. McQuillen said other financial officers across Ohio have also expressed concern.

McQuillen was not the first in line to claim the county’s funds. She said Ashland County officials were not comfortable with the process, so she volunteered to do it.

“So if nobody stepped up, we wouldn’t have gotten the money,” she said. “But my name, Social Security Number and signature are out there already because I’m in charge of all the bank accounts. It does concern me, but it’s part of the job, I guess.”

McQuillen said she has looked into her own homeowner’s insurance policy to see if it would offset damages should her identity be stolen. She has also looked into LifeLock, an identity theft protection company. 

She said the Auditor of State’s office has asked the federal government to pay for fraud coverage. If the federal government does not do it, she said Keith Faber recommends counties cover the individuals claiming the money. 

“So I’m asking for that,” McQuillen said. 

Commissioners Denny Bittle, James Justice and Michael Welch all seemed supportive of purchasing coverage for McQuillen, but tasked her with finding a policy.

As far as commissioners’ plans on how to use the $5.2 million, they are still unsure. Communities have until 2024 to solidify plans but the money must be spent by the end of 2026, according to federal guidelines. 

“We have had discussions,” Bittle said. “But we’re still evaluating what we can use the money on.” 

Justice said the money could be available to use for water, sewer and broadband projects. The county does not operate its own water and sewer plant, so he said villages and towns would need to apply for those funds. He said broadband “is definitely something to look at.”

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