Virginia has improved its access to health coverage. But the gap has widened among Latin American families. | Richmond Local News

This could include applying for unemployment or disability, accepting a stimulus check, or enrolling in Medicaid.

And before April 1, lawful permanent residents in Virginia who didn’t have a decade of work experience – twice as long as most states – were not allowed to apply for Medicaid.

In 2019 alone, that left out the nearly 25,000 people the Department of Homeland Security recorded as having become permanent residents of Virginia.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services suspended its application of public fees on March 9, more than a year after the first case of the coronavirus in Virginia and nine months since data from the Department of Health revealed that Latinos were the bulk of the infections in the state.

By then it was too late, said Freddy Mejia, health policy analyst at the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

“People were even afraid of getting food from pantries because they were afraid of some type of retaliation or some type of immigration enforcement,” Mejia said. “When we think about the really tough times, especially immigrants had in terms of job loss, the impact of COVID itself, the impacts on health, not being or being afraid to access some of the public benefits were certainly detrimental. “

Confusion over what counted as public office had grown into fear of seeking COVID-19 testing, treatment or vaccinations – amplifying the health consequences even among naturalized citizens, who constitute the majority of the immigrant population of the State, according to the Department of Social Services.

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