Hundreds of thousands of Virginians will soon lose temporary help with food and medical coverage offered during the pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, it left millions of Americans struggling to put food on the table and access critical medical services. In response, the federal government quickly implemented a range of programs to provide much-needed support.

One of the key initiatives was the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law in March 2020. The act included a $2 trillion stimulus package that provided direct payments to individuals and families, expanded unemployment benefits, and created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses stay afloat.

In addition to the CARES Act, the federal government also took steps to ensure that Americans had access to food and medical services during the pandemic. For example, the Department of Agriculture implemented the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which provided families with funds to purchase food when schools were closed.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded telehealth services, allowing Americans to access medical care remotely. This was particularly important for those who were unable to leave their homes due to the pandemic.

The federal government’s response to the pandemic was critical in providing much-needed support to growing number of Americans. While the pandemic has had a devastating impact on many aspects of life, these programs helped alleviate some of the financial and logistical challenges faced by individuals and families across the country.

All of this is now coming to the end and millions of Americans who relied on these programs for years will finally have to get their lives to normal because the federal public health emergency is set to end on May 11 meaning that all of these temporary programs will end, Virginia’s Department of Social Services and the Department of Medical Assistance said. This also means that hundreds of thousands of Virginians will lose temporary help with food and medical coverage offered during the height of the pandemic, state agencies responsible for the programs say.

A seismic shift looms on the horizon for Medicaid, the vital health care program that provides coverage to low-income and disabled individuals through a joint federal and state funding mechanism.

Until now, Medicaid recipients had been granted the invaluable benefit of continuous coverage, without the need for annual eligibility reviews. However, this longstanding practice will soon be upended, with the cessation of this benefit set to take effect on March 31.

Following this deadline, the state will initiate the process of purging ineligible individuals from the Medicaid rolls, with annual reviews of eligibility being reinstated on April 30. According to projections by the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS), this review process will result in the removal of approximately 351,000 people from the Medicaid program by its conclusion.

This staggering figure underscores the immense challenges facing policymakers and advocates alike as they seek to navigate the complexities of our health care system and ensure that every person in our communities has access to the quality care they deserve.

“DMAS has been preparing for this return to normal process for the past two years, and we are committed to ensuring that our members continue to receive the health coverage that they deserve,” said Cheryl Roberts, DMAS director.

“In partnership with our colleagues at VDSS, we are ready to help our members find the right health coverage — whether through Medicaid, the federal marketplace, or private health insurance — so that Virginians stay covered and stay healthy.”

As Virginia continues to grapple with the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s most vulnerable populations face a daunting array of challenges, as key lifelines of support are set to expire in the coming months.

One such program, the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer initiative, which was established to provide vital sustenance to school-aged children who missed out on school meals due to pandemic-related shutdowns and scheduling cuts, will issue its final round of benefits in August.

Additionally, extensions to the standard 24- and 60-month limits for benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program are set to expire soon, leaving many families without the critical support they need to make ends meet.

Compounding this, Virginia’s waiver of education and work requirements for TANF benefits has already come to an end, placing new burdens on program participants to demonstrate ongoing eligibility.

As if that were not enough, emergency allotments that increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are set to expire this month, while college students who rely on SNAP benefits will face the prospect of benefit termination come June. All of these developments paint a sobering picture of the immense challenges facing our communities in the months ahead.

“We are proud to have offered Virginians enhanced monthly benefits and expanded access to benefit programs for as long as federal law allowed,” said DSS Commissioner Dr. Danny Avula.

The two agencies say people receiving assistance through any of these programs should make sure their contact information is up to date to ensure prompt delivery of important notices and communications related to the upcoming changes.

Local social services departments can help with this, and provide information and resources. The state’s Commonhelp website ( The Cover Virginia program ( or 1-855-242-8282 (TTY: 1-888-221-1590) can help with Medicaid questions.

Marco Harmon

I was born and raised in Roanoke, VA. I studied Communications Studies at Roanoke College, and I’ve been part of the news industry ever since. Visiting my favorite downtown Roanoke bars and restaurants with my friends is how I spend most of my free time when I'm not at the desk.

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