There’s a recurring theme in the thousands of emails I’ve received from readers about stimulus checks over the past few weeks, and it goes something like this: How do I keep my stimulus check from being taken?
The details may change from one taxpayer to the next, but it’s clear that many taxpayers are worried about their checks being seized. The CARES Act made it clear that the only reason a stimulus check might be offset is for past-due child support. Your stimulus check may not be seized by the government for any other debt, including back taxes.
However, once the check hits a taxpayer’s bank account, there is no protection from seizure. One such seizure is particularly egregious: those from nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued an alert to consumers to be on the lookout for nursing homes and assisted living facilities that are requiring residents who are on Medicaid to sign their stimulus checks over to the facilities. Specifically, nursing home and assisted living facilities have been accused of pressuring residents to sign the checks over, claiming that stimulus checks count as “resources” under the rules of federal benefit programs that must be used to pay for services.
That’s not true. Remember, stimulus checks are really advanced tax credits. And, Lois Greisman, the Elder Justice Coordinator for the FTC, reminds taxpayers that tax credits don’t count as “resources” for federal benefits programs like Medicaid. That means that nursing homes and assisted living facilities can’t take that money from residents just because they’re on Medicaid. And if you need more legalese, Greisman references this link, which takes you to the Congressional Summary for the CARES Act which notes that tax credits are not countable as resources for federal government programs (see page 3).
Greisman advises that if a nursing home or assisted living facility has already taken your stimulus check, you should get in touch with your state attorney general and ask them to help you get it back. Then, she says, tell the FTC.
You can also talk with the nursing home or assisted living facility directly, but let’s be real: it can be scary to ask for your money back when you don’t feel like you’re in a position of power. If you feel like you need some muscle on your side, definitely reach out to your state attorney general.
If you’re not sure what happened to a check belonging to a loved one who lives in a nursing facility, talk with them soon. I know this is happening because I’ve received many emails wondering how to handle this situation. Now you have your answer.