Federal Trade Commission Response to Resident Stimulus Checks

In March 2020, U.S. lawmakers agreed on the passage of a $2 trillion stimulus bill called the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) to help with the impact of an economic downturn set in motion by the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 27, 2020, the bill was signed into law. At over $2 trillion, this is the largest rescue package in U.S. history. The package includes stimulus checks payable to Americans.

Nursing and Assisted Living Homes

A basic Medicaid rule for nursing home recipients is that residents pay all their income, minus certain deductions, to the nursing home. If a check were considered income, it would likely have to go straight to the nursing home. Since in most states Medicaid recipients cannot have more than $2,000 in assets, there was also concern that the stimulus payments could put many recipients over the countable asset limit.

However, receiving the stimulus check should not disqualify nursing home residents from Medicaid nursing home care. Additionally, the stimulus check funds should not be taken by a nursing home claiming that this is income. This is because the stimulus checks are considered a tax credit, not income. Therefore, Medicaid will not count the money as income, which means the stimulus check cannot push one over Medicaid’s income limit, and hence, result in the loss of Medicaid benefits. The stimulus check should either be directed deposited in the nursing home resident’s bank account or be mailed to the address on one’s 2018 or 2019 tax return. It should not be taken by the nursing home, nor should a nursing home take the funds.

Federal Trade Commission Response to Resident Stimulus Checks

The Federal Trade Commission says nursing and assisted living home operators around the country have been wrongfully seizing the stimulus checks of residents who are on Medicaid. This seizing of stimulus checks is not allowed. In fact, our law firm believes that nursing homes seizing the funds is inappropriate.

Some operators are trying to justify the seizure by claiming the stimulus check is a federal benefit, but the CARES Act payments are classified as a tax credit and are allocated to individuals, not the facilities caring for them. That means that nursing and assisted living homes cannot take that money from residents just because they are on Medicaid.

Some nursing home and assisted living facilities have been accused of pressuring residents to sign the checks over, claiming that stimulus checks count as “resources” under the rules of federal benefit programs that must be used to pay for services. Once again, this is incorrect since the stimulus check is meant as a tax credit.

What can you do to protect yourself or your loved one?

FTC Elder Justice Coordinator Lois Greisman- said if a nursing home or assisted living facility has already taken that money from you, contact your state attorney general to help you get the money back and file a complaint with the FTC.  Or you may also wish to contact a law firm, such as ours, that will zealously protect your rights to the receipt of these stimulus funds.

If you have a loved one in a North Carolina nursing or assisted living home, the FTC encourages you to check on that loved one to be sure their stimulus check was not seized by the home. If you or a loved one have questions regarding this, you can immediately contact this firm for assistance.

Our Consumer Protection Investigation

Our firm will continue to investigate North Carolina nursing and assisted living homes and keep consumers updated, like we are with other consumer protection matters.

If you have any questions regarding this blog post or want to speak with one of firm’s consumer law attorneys about a potential case, feel free to call our firm at (919) 526-0405, by email at info@maginnishoward.com or through our contact page.

You can also subscribe to our mailing list to learn about the rights you have under consumer protection law against large corporations or take our consumer rights survey to see if we are investigating a situation that might apply to you.