The Federal Trade Commission is telling consumers to report assisted living communities and nursing homes to the federal government and to state attorneys general if facilities wrongly say they are entitled to Medicaid beneficiaries’ federal stimulus payments from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

“They’re claiming that, because the person is on Medicaid, the facility gets to keep the stimulus payment,” Lois Greisman, elder justice coordinator at the federal agency, wrote in a blog posted Friday. “But here’s the deal: those economic impact payments are, according to the CARES Act, a tax credit. And tax law says that tax credits don’t count as ‘resources’ for federal benefits programs, like Medicaid.”

Iowa and other states are reporting having received complaints about long-term care facilities making claims on resident checks, Greisman said.

A spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller told McKnight’s Senior Living that the office had received a report regarding a senior living and care provider that told residents “not to plan on using the coronavirus stimulus check” because it would belong to the facility. The attorney general’s office, Communications Director Lynn Hicks said, referred the case to the state ombudsman and also raised concerns with the operator.

The owner’s original letter told residents that the company “was ‘requesting that you not spend the moneys received from the COVID-19 stimulus benefit until DHS (Iowa Department of Human Services) makes a determination with respect to a change to your monthly client participation,’ ” Hicks said, but the company subsequently sent a revised letter clarifying that residents could keep their stimulus funds.

The attorney general’s office, he said, is informing long-term care residents and their families that stimulus checks will not be counted as income and will not disqualify Medicaid beneficiaries from care. “However, if the stimulus money is not spent within 12 months, it may be counted as an asset and could affect future eligibility,” Hicks said.   

The FTC advises consumers that their state’s attorney general’s office can help get residents’ money back if their checks were taken. Greisman also advised consumers to file a complaint with the FTC.The blog points consumers to the federal law that says that refunds aren’t considered a “resource” in federal benefits programs, to the congressional summary that talks about the funds as tax credits not countable as resources for federal government programs (on page 3), and to additional information for residents of assisted living communities and nursing homes from the National Center on Law & Elder Rights.