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Fillmore Place being investigated over residents’ missing stimulus checks

The exterior of long-term care facility Fillmore Place in Petersburg
An August 2021 complaint against Fillmore Place — a long-care facility in Petersburg — stated that two of a resident’s stimulus checks were unaccounted for. Complicating the issue is the resident having transferred to Fillmore from another facility in December 2020. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Petersburg's department of Adult Protective Services is investigating an assisted-living facility after residents reported never receiving federal stimulus money, according to The Progress-Index.

A handful of Fillmore Place residents told the newspaper that they hadn’t received their stimulus checks in an investigation the paper published last month. VPM News also recently reported on issues at the facility and obtained complaints lodged against Fillmore from 2017 through 2021, including one complaint related to a resident not receiving stimulus funds.

The complaint, dated August 2021, stated that two of a resident’s stimulus checks — for $1,200 and $1,400 — were unaccounted for. But the resident had transferred to Fillmore from another facility in December 2020, complicating the paper trail. 

Fillmore’s administrator Brenda Seal told VPM News that she couldn’t immediately recall which facility that resident came from.

“Most likely, this stimulus money is still back where that person was,” Seal said. “I know one other facility … they turned around and kept the stimulus money. And when we asked for a receipt for it, they couldn't provide any receipts.”

The allegation that Fillmore Place exploited a resident was deemed “not valid” by a social services inspector last year, according to documentation obtained by VPM News. The inspector cited the administrator's claim that the checks were still at the resident’s previous facility.

The name of the facility where the resident previously lived — and where the check would’ve been mailed — was redacted by the Department of Social Services.

DSS declined to answer an emailed question from VPM News about why the information was redacted. In a response, their spokesperson said “we are unable to disclose any details of an active investigation.”

Seal said Fillmore also didn’t receive stimulus checks for residents who transferred to Fillmore in late 2021 after two other Richmond-area facilities closed.  

“We are still trying to receive our money from both of those places through Social Security and through [state] grants,” Seal said. “So, we've had these people since September, and only getting half of a loaf.”

However, Fillmore Place was cited by social services for failing to maintain a written accounting of money received and disbursed by the facility on behalf of the resident.

“The facility failed to place a copy of the monthly statement in the resident record that itemizes any charges made by the facility and any payments received from the resident or on behalf of the resident during the previous calendar month,” the inspector’s note read.

The resident’s brother planned to move his sibling to another facility when a bed became available, according to the complaint. 

Investigating complaints

Joani Latimer, state long-term care ombudsman for the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, said her office’s primary role is to serve as advocates for residents. 

“We basically do that at a resident’s request, with their permission or their request for assistance,” Latimer said.

As part of that work, Latimer’s office receives and investigates complaints directly from residents of long-term care facilities in Virginia. Sometimes, they approach facilities directly to try to resolve issues. Other times, they refer complaints to state and local agencies for further investigation. 

Between April 2020 and May 2021, Latimer said her program investigated 150 complaints related to loss or misappropriation of a resident’s personal property. One-hundred twenty-one of those complaints were from nursing home residents and 29 from assisted-living facility residents.

While Latimer said it would take time to pinpoint exactly which included complaints about stimulus-fund misuse, it was definitely an issue. 

“We've handled some complaints about that where a resident either just had a concern about it and needed information to sort of reinforce their understanding, or actually were not getting access to the funds, or became aware that the funds were being applied — maybe pulled into coverage of the care needs — when it should not have been happening,” Latimer said.

She points out that regulations dictate that COVID-19 stimulus checks should go directly to long-term care residents, and shouldn’t be applied to their living expenses. There’ve been three rounds of checks issued so far during the pandemic, based on taxpayers’ income brackets.

“It's been an issue across the board in those facility settings to make sure that providers are, number one, understanding the nature of this payment — which they certainly should, because there's been a fair amount of information shared about that — and that they're honoring the intent of the payments and making sure that they get it to the residents.”

Latimer also noted that there’s a vacancy for the Petersburg-area representative who advocates for residents in the Tri-Cities, Emporia and several surrounding counties, and that the agency has had a hard time finding someone to fill the position.

“Those folks are our boots on the ground trying to assist residents, and so it's been a bit of a vacuum for that particular area,” Latimer said.

Megan Pauly covers education and health care issues in the greater Richmond region.