Nursing home residents having trouble accessing 2020 IRS stimulus check money

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- Residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities may be having problems getting full access to stimulus money because the checks were sent by the government directly into facilities' accounts.

Attorneys general are fielding complaints that stimulus checks aren't being turned over to home residents. But there are things you can do to protect your loved one from losing their payment.

The ABC 7 I-Team talked to a mother who said she is fighting to get her daughter full access of all of her stimulus money.

"Under the CARES Act the stimulus check is treated like a tax credit, and a tax credit is not considered to be a resource for purposes of federal programs like Medicaid," said Todd Kossow, Assistant Director of the Midwest Region's Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC is warning families to advocate for their loved ones in homes, after hearing of complaints from consumers.

"I would just check to make sure that they had gotten their stimulus check, and that they actually have access to it," Kossow said.

Veronica Scott is dealing with a stimulus check dispute. Her daughter LaToya is disabled. Her stimulus check was deposited on May 20. The long term care facility, Thornton Heights Terrace, has the money in a trust and is controlling the limited spending of those funds in small amounts.

"It's disturbing that the nursing home took the initiative to take control of money that they have no right to control. And I am disappointed in them as a facility," said Scott.

Scott is her daughter's legal plenary guardian which, according to the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, gives her "power to make all decisions about personal care and/or finances for the disabled person."

But Thorton Heights Terrace told the I-Team, LaToya's does not have a guardian of her financial estate, so money will be put in that trust fund which LaToya can access in "small amounts to be used within the facility (gift shop, etc)."

If Latoya wants to buy something outside of the home, the facility said it will assist her with "proper written direction."

"LaToya needs a new phone, clothes, a haircut would be nice," said Scott. "Nursing home only gives $60 a month. Shame on you, release the money. Because they cannot speak for themselves, they have mental illnesses. We the parents and the guardians, we have to advocate for our children, for our loved ones."

Thorton Heights Terrace said that it will assist in getting Latoya a phone. They added that once the current restrictions on long-term care facilities are lifted, the facility will assist residents to set up banking accounts to have more access to funds.

Kossow said residents have a time limit to use the funds.

"They should use it in the first 12 months because 12 months after they receive it, it could be considered a resource for Medicaid purposes. The nursing home may be able to take it at that point," he said.

Meanwhile, Scott filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"They have no right to that money," she said. "It's not their money to control."

The FTC suggests checking the IRS's stimulus web page to see the status of your loved one's check. If it's gone into a nursing or assisted living facility's account, you'll want to make sure your loved one has access to it. If not, you can file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General.

The Illinois Attorney General provides a Senior Citizens Consumer Fraud Hotline. 1-800-243-5377 or 1-800-964-3013 (TTY).

To report the abuse, neglect or exploitation of an older person living in a long-term care facility, please contact the Department of Public Health at 1-800-252-4343 or 1-800-547-0466 (TTY). Online, visit http://www.dph.illinois.gov/

To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: ftc.gov/complaint
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.