17 Jun, 2020
Economic Impact Payments (EIP) or stimulus payments authorized by the CARES ACT cannot be counted as "income" for financial eligibility for Medicaid or SSI. Medicaid and SSI recipients have 12 months to spend the checks before they are counted as a "resource" for eligibility for their benefits. The NYS Dept. of Health (DOH) has made this clear to local Medicaid programs -- GIS 20 MA/05.
But DOH has not informed facility operators that residents of nursing homes, adult homes, Assisted Living Programs, and other congregate care facilities have the right to keep their stimulus checks. Many facility operators do not know this, since it's a change from the usual rule that requires most of the residents' income to be paid to the facility toward the cost of their care, with the resident receiving only a small monthly Personal Needs Allowance or "PNA."
For months, NYS advocates have asked the NYS Dept of Health to issue guidance to facility operators that these checks must be given to residents for their own personal use. See letter dated April 13, 2020 from NYLAG, MFJ, & NYAIL, joined by 14 other organizations. The same advocates have sent DOH many follow-up requests. MFJ created fact sheets for consumers. See MFJ Fact Sheets (Nursing Home) (Adult home).
Meanwhile, federal agencies and advocacy organizations have sent out alerts warning residents and their families that some facilities may illegally try to seize these payments.
CMS issued a Press Release on June 11th stating nursing homes that seized the check or required the resident to sign it over to the nursing home would be violating federal law and regulations prohibiting misappropriation of resident property and depriving residents of their right to manage their financial affairs, and could lead to sanctions against the nursing home.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a blog titled, "Nursing homes and assisted living facilities: Hands off residents’ stimulus checks!" The blog says that the facility administrators are not allowed to take the COVID-19 stimulus checks residents are receiving. In the May 15, 2020 alert, the FTC stated there had already been complaints about facilities taking the payments in Iowa and some other states.
The Internal Revenue Service issued an alert, "Economic Impact Payments belong to recipient, not nursing homes or care facilities." June, 16, 2020
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued FAQs on this issue, which points out that if the individual has a representative payee, that "representative payee is only responsible for managing Social Security or SSI benefits. An EIP is not such a benefit. A representative payee should discuss the EIP with the beneficiary. If the beneficiary wants to use the EIP independently, the representative payee should provide the EIP to the beneficiary. If the beneficiary asks the representative payee for assistance in using the EIP in a specific manner or saving it, the representative payee can provide that assistance outside the role of a representative payee." If the Facility is the representative payee for the resident, they must follow these instructions.
The National Center on Law & Elder Rights published a Fact Sheet for nursing home residents
On June 8th, the Chairpersons of the House Ways and Means and House Energy and Commerce committees called on CMS to protect the interests of nursing home residents and ensure residents "are not coerced into wrongly handing over their checks for fear of being kicked out of their homes.” Read the press release here and the full letter to CMS here.
Finally, on June 12, 2020, NYS Dept. of Health issued COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments - guidance to Adult Care Facility ("ACF"), Adult Home & Assisted Living Program (ALP) administrators stating that Federal Stimulus checks (Economic Impact Payments "EIP") and the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation checks ($600/week) belong to the resident and must make the payment available to the resident to access and spend.
Though the guidance says that the facility cannot use the stimulus funds to cover arrearages, it provides an exception, allowing the facility to use the funds to cover arrears with "the resident’s written authorization" if the facility "previously provided written notification to the resident" of the arrears due.
The June 12th Guidance was sent to administrators of Adult Homes, not Nursing Homes. To date, DOH has not directed nursing homes to ensure that residents receive these payments. Advocates have seen cases where the nursing home only gave the resident the check after extensive advocacy, where the nursing home claimed the resident owed arrears.
What you can do if a resident's Stimulus check was taken by the facility?
If a resident of a nursing home, adult home, or other congregate care facility believes that their Stimulus check was taken by the facility:
Show the operator the FTC blog and demand that the funds to be placed in the individual’s personal needs account or be transferred to the consumer in the way the consumer requests.
If the operator does not return the funds to the consumer:
- Call the NYS Dept. of Health Complaint unit:
o Nursing homes: 888-201-4563
o Adult homes/assisted living: 866-893-6772
For advocacy help call:
o Mobilization for Justice
o NYLAG –
See MFJ Fact Sheets about Stimulus Payments (Nursing Home) (Adult home).
See more COVID-19 resources at: