Can The Nursing Home Take My Stimulus Check?

Ruder Ware
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As we are coming to the end of Elder Law Month (as named by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys), one of our many roles as elder law attorneys is to keep you apprised of important topics in the world of elder law. As such, we wanted to reach out to you to draw attention to the fact that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning residents of long-term care facilities and their families that some facilities (in states other than Wisconsin) may be unlawfully requiring residents who are receiving Medicaid to sign over their $1,200 pandemic relief checks.

“This is not just a horror story making the rounds. These are actual reports that our friends in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office have been getting—and handling. Other states have seen the same,” writes Lois Greisman, the FTC’s Elder Justice Coordinator, in a May 15 alert. Fortunately, in Wisconsin, we have not yet seen these same concerns.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included one-time payments of up to $1,200 to millions of eligible individuals, based on their income. Ordinarily, nursing home and assisted living residents receiving Medicaid benefits must give all of their income to the facility, minus a small “personal needs allowance.” However, the economic impact payments that are part of the CARES Act are a tax credit. According to tax law, tax credits don’t count as “resources” for federal benefit programs like Medicaid. The money belongs to the resident, not the facility.

The FTC says that if a loved one lives in a nursing facility and you’re not sure what happened to their payment, talk with them soon. If the facility took the payment already, get in touch with your state attorney general and ask them to help you get it back, and then inform the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of our lives – some more so than others. We’ve had calls from clients who are newly entering into assisted living facilities and nursing homes. They have many questions regarding their finances, the pandemic relief checks, and an array of other worries. We’ve heard how difficult social distancing and restricted visitation policies have been, and some of us have experienced this first hand.

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For the FTC’s alert to consumers, click here.

For the agency’s companion alert to businesses, titled “Nursing homes and assisted living facilities: Hands off residents’ stimulus checks,” click here.

For a fact sheet from the National Center on Law & Elder Rights (NCLER) titled “Nursing Home Residents, Medicaid, and Stimulus Checks: What You Need to Know,” click here.

For an NCLER fact sheet for those receiving Medicaid in assisted living facilities or in the community, click here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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