TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a consumer alert this week for those with loved ones living in long-term care facilities.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, some facility operators are seizing the stimulus payments of residents on Medicaid, justifying the seizure by claiming the facility, not the individual, is entitled to the federal benefit.
These reports are beginning to surface nationwide.
“These are the folks that cannot protect themselves,” Moody told News4Jax.
And she wants Floridians to know it’s illegal.
“That was not what was intended by the CARES Act and it’s unacceptable, won’t be tolerated and we’re making sure we get that word out,” said Moody.
CARES Act payments are classified as a tax credit, not a federal benefit, and are allocated to individuals not the facilities entrusted to care for them, Moody said.
“As we have seen throughout this crisis, residents in these facilities are at a higher risk of suffering and dying from COVID-19 -- they should not have to carry the additional burden of worrying about their stimulus money being taken by those entrusted with their care," Moody said in a statement. "The federal government allocated these funds to individuals during these unprecedented times. If these stimulus funds were meant for facility operators, they would have been earmarked as such.“
The Attorney General told News4Jax she couldn’t disclose the names of the facilities or saw how many are under investigation.
She also declined to specify the penalties those facilities could face if they’re found to be stealing checks.
Kristen Knapp with the Florida Health Care Association, which represents over 80% of the state’s nursing homes, said there was some initial confusion about how nursing homes should handle the stimulus checks.
“We do care for Medicaid residents,” said Knapp.
Facilities wanted to ensure the money wouldn’t disqualify their residents from receiving Medicaid, but the issue has since been cleared up.
“These federal dollars are treated almost like a tax refund so they don’t count against their Medicaid eligibility,” said Knapp.
Moody urged Floridians to check on loved ones living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and ask if their stimulus payments have been received. If they haven’t, ask the facility’s management if they are holding the benefits, Moody said.
It’s important to check with your loved one’s care facility before filing a complaint because while a resident might not see a physical check, it could have been deposited in their resident trust fund.
“You know it’s similar to like the personal needs allowance where that money is there to use for buying a gift for a loved one or however they see fit,” said Knapp.
If the facility is holding the payments and not passing them on to residents, Moody said, the family should contact her office immediately.
To contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office, call 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or visit MyFloridaLegal.com.
Complaints can also be filed with the FTC by visiting FTC.Gov/Complaint.
For tips on scams related to stimulus payments, click here.
For tips on general COVID-19 related scams, click here.
Nursing Homes will be holding a meeting Thursday to provide their members with additional guidance on how to handle the checks.