Some nursing homes may have stolen the coronavirus stimulus checks of the people living there, the Federal Trade Commission says. The FTC posted a warning online on Friday, urging nursing home residents and their families to be on the lookout for signs that their stimulus check was signed over to the facility where they live without their knowledge. The FTC stressed that nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not have the right to take stimulus checks.
The FTC has gotten reports that some nursing homes have forced or tricked residents into signing over their stimulus check to the facility, especially those who are on Medicaid. These places are trying to make the case that the relief checks count as "resources" under the rules of the federal benefits programs used to pay for their services. However, this is not the case, and the FTC urges people to check in on loved ones who are on Medicaid and may have fallen victim to this falsehood.
Anyone who has been tricked in this way should file a complaint with their state attorney general to get things started. The FTC has now posted multiple blog posts about this problem, including one directed at nursing homes themselves, stating in no uncertain terms that they may not seize stimulus payments from residents.
FTC Elder Justice Coordinator Lois Greisman told reporters from CNN that "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."
The IRS issued the checks under the CARES Act, which stipulates that debt collectors of any kind may not seize them due to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout. The only exception to this rule is child support, which may be collected if the recipient is behind on payments.
Nursing homes know better than anyone just how bad the coronavirus pandemic has gotten. Many reports have circulated, saying that facilities for the elderly are the worst-hit in the country by this outbreak. COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions and those with autoimmune disorders.
The elderly are also at a higher risk for being taken advantage of with a stimulus check scam — of which there have been many for over a month now. Even before the checks were issued, phony robocalls, emails and text alerts tried to fool recipients into handing over their economic relief money.