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Nursing home residents, who are already at a high risk of losing their lives to COVID-19, could be facing headaches getting their coronavirus-relief stimulus checks, too. 

The Economic Impact Payments generally belong to the patients, not the nursing care facility, according to an alert issued Tuesday by the Internal Revenue Service. But some faclities may be wrongly taking that money, if the IRS alert is any clue to some potential problems. 

“We want to ensure that the most vulnerable get their money as they are supposed to. It’s their money and only they should decide how to use it.” said Luis Garcia, an IRS spokesman in Detroit. 

More: Nursing home residents account for 34% of Michigan’s COVID-19-related deaths

More: How to return a stimulus check for the dearly departed

The IRS said specifically: “The payments are intended for the recipients, if a nursing home or other facility or provider receives the person’s payment, either directly or indirectly by direct deposit or check.”

And the payments of up to $1,200 for qualifying individuals shouldn’t count against other medical benefits. Elderly people should not have to hand over their stimulus checks to nursing care facilities if their care is provided through Medicaid. 

The IRS also said: “These payments do not count as a resource for purposes of determining eligibility for Medicaid and other federal programs for a period of 12 months from receipt. They also do not count as income in determining eligibility for these programs.”

This week, Kentucky’s attorney general told families to watch out for what he called “unlawful seizure” of stimulus funds by some nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Some members of Congress have expressed similar outrage as some nursing homes were claiming that if a resident was on Medicaid, the facility would get to keep the $1,200 Economic Impact Payment.

Nursing home patients have had some of the worst challenges since the outbreak of coronavirus in the United States earlier this year. Families have been unable to visit loved ones in nursing care facilities because of lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus.

In Michigan, 34% of the state’s new coronavirus-releated deaths involved nursing home residents. The deaths of 1,947 nursing home residents and 20 employees at facilities across Michigan were COVID-19-related, the state health department reported Monday.

Nationwide, the death toll exceeded 50,000 for residents and staff of senior care and nursing home facilities and estimates indicate that deaths in such facilities could account for at least 40% of all coronavirus-related deaths, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. 

Contact Susan Tompor:stompor@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @tompor. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.

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