Nursing home residents are among the Americans who receive $ 1,200 checks as part of the U.S. government's economic recovery plan. But what are the rules for dealing with money, as many long-term care facilities are blocked to prevent COVID 19 outbreaks?
The situation underscores the vulnerability of many older residents and the potential confusion as to what houses can and cannot do with residents' money.
One concern is that nursing homes could put pressure on residents to use the checks to pay outstanding amounts. Another reason is that relatives who are not legal representatives may require that they be responsible for the money, which puts staff in difficult situations.
Visitor bans that were introduced months ago make it difficult to say whether such problems are widespread, as residents may be reluctant to raise concerns over the phone, said Lindsay Heckler of the Center for Elderly Law and Justice.
"We just don't know," she said.
Residents can have personal accounts in nursing homes that are subject to federal regulations, a shared facility that can be convenient for both parties.
For those receiving Medicaid, income such as social security checks may need to go to the nursing home to cover the cost of care. However, residents have the right to keep a monthly income of around $ 50 for personal expenses, which is often deposited in these personal home accounts – and in many cases, stimulus funds are deposited.
Gregory Cole, a 70-year-old in southwest Ohio, said he went to a window in his nursing home to withdraw money from his account.
"I let them know that I want to withdraw $ 30 and I want $ 20 in 1-dollar bills for the candy machine and the pop vending machine," said Cole, whose house has been closed since mid-March.
It is not yet known if there are widespread nursing home issues that accept residents' checks, Lois Greisman of the Federal Trade Commission said. After receiving some questions on the subject, the agency asked staff in May to contact their attorney general if they had any problems.
About two dozen attorneys general, who were contacted by The Associated Press, said they had little to no complaints, while one couple said they had several. Some known reports may have been submitted to the local police or other authorities.
Some early ailments could be from real confusion, Greisman said. Homes often receive other income with the prior consent of Medicaid residents to cover the cost. However, the stimulus checks are considered tax credits that cannot be confiscated.
Nursing homes themselves could also be placed in difficult positions. For example, even if family members feel that they should be responsible for the money, the house should not hand it over unless the person is legally required to manage the resident's finances.
Heckler also cited an example of a resident trying to cash out a $ 1,200 check for the vending machine one at a time, which would cause concern that money would be lost or stolen.
Another potential problem: the stimulus money could jeopardize a person's Medicaid eligibility if they don't spend it within a year. Medicaid recipients cannot have assets over certain limits that vary from state to state.
Cole, the resident of southwest Ohio nursing home, said he had some money left over after buying a 55-inch TV and game device. He will say that he will likely wait until his nursing home's lock ends to spend the rest.
"If I can get out of here for a while, I want to take my family to a steak dinner," said Cole.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Science is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.