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Medicaid & SSI Recipients May Keep Your Covid Stimulus Checks & Unemployment benefits - Including Nursing Home, Adult Home & ALP Residents!

15 Aug, 2022

Economic Impact Payments (EIP) (stimulus payments) first authorized by the CARES ACT in 2020 and then two later rounds of payments  AND  Unemployment benefits paid  from March 2020 through Sept. 2021 cannot be counted as "income" for financial eligibility for Medicaid or SSI.  Medicaid and SSI recipients no longer are required to spend the checks within 12 months.  Even if they keep them,  they are not counted as a "resource" for eligibility for their benefits.  

  • In May 2022, NYS DOH issued  GIS 22 MA/04 - Update on the Impact of Certain Federal COVID-19 Pandemic Related Payments on Medicaid Eligibility Determinations for SSI-Related Applicants/Recipients 

    • Attachment I  - This chart lists each type of pandemic relief and unemployment insurance and explains whether it is exempt as a resource and/or as income 

The NYS GIS directive implements two updated SSA directives that exempt these pandemic payments from SSI:

  1.  EM-21050 REV 3  -Special Processing Instructions for Applying Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Income and Resource Exclusions to Pandemic-related Disaster Assistance   (updated June 3, 2022)
  2. EM-20014 REV 5 - Effect of COVID-19-Related Financial Assistance on SSI Income and Resources  (updated June 3, 2022, first issued  July 2021, then updated in Jan. 2022)  excludes ADDITIONAL  pandemic-related financial assistance for eligibility for SSI, and will no longer require that the Economic Income Payments be spent down in 12 months. 

New types of Pandemic Relief Excluded from  Income & Resources for SSI or Medicaid

The main new exclusions from income in NYS are:

  • Unemployment Assistance - both NYS unemployment assistance and  Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) -- The 2022 NYS DOH GIS 22 MA/04 Attachment I, like the SSA   EM-21050 REV 3says  unemployment received between March 2020 and  Sept. 2021 is exempt, both as income and is exempt as a resource even if it remains unspent.

  • COVID-19 Funeral Assistance  (Confirmed exempt in GIS 22 MA/04 Attachment I)

  • Emergency Rental Assistance Fund - (Confirmed exempt in GIS 22 MA/04 Attachment I)

See  Fact Sheet: SSI Exclusion for Pandemic-Related Financial Assistance from the National Center for Law & Elder Rights here (updated June 2022)  Get the fact sheet

  • NYS Falls Short In Telling Facility Operators to Ensure Residents Receive Stimulus Checks

    • 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 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 NYLAGMFJ, & 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 updated its FAQs to incorporate the July 2021 changes.  Click here.  Earlier  FAQs  point 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.  See fact sheets updated August 2021:

    • 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.  

    Concerns about the June 12th DOH Guidance to Adult Home Administrators

    • 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.  

      • WARNING:  Advocates have heard of some adult homes pressuring residents to sign "voluntary" agreements to use the stimulus payment to cover arrears, even if the resident had not known about the arrears before

    • 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:

    • In NYC: 

    o   Mobilization for Justice

    o   NYLAG –

    See MFJ Fact Sheets about Stimulus Payments  (Nursing Home) (Adult home).

    See more COVID-19 resources at:

     

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