The pf blogosphere is abuzz with discussion of the economic stimulus payments most taxpayers will receive in the next couple of months. Many are touting the opportunity to use this returned tax money to save, invest, or pay down debts.
My grandfather, on the other hand, absolutely must spend his stimulus payment within three months of receiving it as a condition of continuing to receive Medicaid benefits. He's 88, has suffered from aphasia as a result his second stroke when I was in elementary school, has had respiratory problems and been on oxygen since a bad bout of double pneumonia in 1999, and never regained the ability to walk after being bedridden following surgery summer before last. After completing physical therapy that summer, he ended up in a nursing home because he now needs more help with the basic tasks of his daily life than my grandmother and the rest of my family can provide.
Nursing care is tremendously expensive, and the bills quickly ate through my grandparents' savings. My grandfather was approved for Medicaid last fall. His pensions and social security income all go into a trust: he gets $40 a month for his own needs, my grandmother gets a fixed sum to supplement her own social security benefits since my grandfather has a far greater income, and the rest goes toward his medical bills. He's allowed to keep a small amount of money, and under most circumstances if he exceeded that limit he'd no longer be eligible for Medicaid.
The stimulus payment will push him and many other Medicaid patients over that limit. The state had to institute a special policy to deal with this problem: if the money is spent for my grandfather's benefit within three months, it won't count. Otherwise, my grandfather will lose Medicaid benefits and have to reapply, even though his stimulus payment would cover less than a week of his care.
Now we just have to figure out how to spend this money. It's hard to buy for someone whose activities are so limited. Watching sports and old movies on tv and reading the newspaper are how he fills much of his time.