As millions of Americans begin receiving stimulus checks under the CARES Act, the Federal Trade Commission is now warning residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities to keep a close eye on their money.
"A lot of nursing homes and assisted living facilities that are accepting Medicaid patients were taking the stimulus checks of their patients, thinking this was like other forms of income," elder law attorney Steve Weisman said.
According to the FTC, "those payments are considered tax credits and tax credits don't count as 'resources' for federal benefits programs like Medicaid."
"If someone gets a social security check it is supposed to be applied to their care in the nursing home," Weisman said. "So a lot of people in the nursing home, and their families who may be assisting with the funds, are not aware that this money they are getting – these stimulus checks – is theirs to keep and should not be applied to their nursing home costs."
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The Massachusetts Attorney General's office told NBC10 Boston it has not yet received any complaints of this practice happening in the Bay State, but the FTC says it is happening in other states. If a loved one lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility, the FTC recommends touching base with them soon, and contact the facility if there appears to be a problem.
"I would just bring it to their attention," Weisman said. "You might even mention that the FTC did send out a notice and they should be aware of this notice to protect themselves. I would think that most, if not all, nursing homes want to do the right thing."
If the nursing home or assisted living facility you're dealing with resists returning the money, contact the Massachusetts Attorney General's office for assistance.