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ALERT: Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility Residents—YOUR STIMULUS PAYMENTS BELONG TO YOU!

ALERT: Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility Residents—YOUR STIMULUS PAYMENTS BELONG TO YOU!

Over the past two and a half months, the IRS has sent out more than a million federal “stimulus” payments to New Mexicans.  Authorized by a federal law called the “CARES” Act, these payments are officially called “Economic Impact Payments” (EIPs).  They are intended to provide financial relief directly to individuals and families.

The EIPs are the property of the recipients.  They cannot be treated as income – or as resources for 12 months – in determining eligibility and payment obligations under Medicaid or other federally-funded programs.  As the IRS has clarified, this is the case even if a nursing home or other facility or provider receives the person’s payment, either directly or indirectly by direct deposit or check.

Nonetheless, at least five major federal agencies – the IRS, the Social Security Administration, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau [CFPB], the Federal Trade Commission [FTC], and the federal Medicare/Medicaid agency (“CMS”) – have expressed concerns that people and/or businesses may – inadvertently or intentionally — be taking advantage of vulnerable populations who received the EIPs.  The IRS has specifically “reminded” nursing homes and other care facilities that the EIPs belong to the recipients, not the organizations providing the care.

The Senior Citizens’ Law Office (SCLO) shares these concerns and we want to ensure that such improper actions are not occurring in New Mexico long term care facilities.  To that end we contacted the state Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility Association and other interested parties; urging them to (1) share that reminder with their members and affiliates; and (2) encourage them to take steps to ensure that their financial arrangements with residents – including bank account debiting, trust accounts, and personal needs allowances — do not result in a “seizure” of any resident’s EIP.  We believe facilities should inform residents and their representatives of these rights, so the resident can decide what to do with their EIP.

What can residents do if they believe their facility has violated their EIP rights?  The federal agencies recommend that they should complain to their state Attorney General’s office (in New Mexico, https://www.nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx; 1-844-255-9210).  However, in   New Mexico complaints can be submitted to two agencies that address nursing home and assisted living facility problems more specifically — the NM Department of Health at 1-800-752-8649 or 1-800-445-6242, or FAX to 888-576-0012, or online at incident.management@state.nm.us; and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at 1-866-451-2901.

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