Governor Northam announced on Monday, April 19 that all Virginians age 16 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has a centralized system where Virginians can find and schedule appointments. Visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call (877) VAX-IN-VA, or (877) 829-4682, to find a nearby appointment. If you are eligible in Phase 1a, 1b, or 1c and cannot find an available appointment that meets your needs, you may still pre-register for a priority appointment at vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling (877) 829-4682. Your local health district will then contact you within a week to schedule your appointment. Click here for more information about the centralized pre-registration system. Click here to view other frequently asked questions about the vaccine.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, April 29, Governor Northam adopted new guidance from the CDC on mask use in outdoor settings. Effective immediately, fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks outdoors when alone or in small gatherings. However, mask use is still required indoors and outdoors at crowded events like concerts, sporting events, and graduation ceremonies. Governor Northam also announced that up to 1,000 spectators are allowed at outdoor recreational events, effective immediately.
NOTE: People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine.
UPDATE: On Thursday, April 22, Governor Northam announced next steps to ease COVID-19 restrictions. The following changes will go into effect on Saturday, May 15.
- Outdoor social gatherings can have up to 250 people (up from 100), and indoor gatherings can have up to 100 people (up from 50).
- Outdoor entertainment and public amusement venues may operate at 50 percent capacity, with no specific cap on number of attendees. This is up from 30 percent capacity.
- Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues may operate at 50 percent capacity, capped at 1,000 people. This is up from 30 percent capacity or 500 people.
- Capacity for indoor recreational sporting events will increase from 100 to 250 people per field or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less.
- Restaurants may return to selling alcohol after midnight, and dining room closures will no longer be required between midnight and 5am.
For more details on the latest adjustments to Virginia’s statewide restrictions, CLICK HERE to review the Governor’s executive order.
Governor Northam also announced strengthened enforcement and penalties for essential retail businesses not following the existing guidelines. CLICK HERE to review the restrictions and guidelines.
The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) is designed to support housing stability across the Commonwealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on availability of funds and household need, the RMRP may provide financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments for eligible households. This includes financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments past due beginning April 1, 2020 and onward. Financial assistance is a one-time payment with opportunity for renewal based on availability of funding and the household’s need for additional assistance and continued eligibility. Please click here to see if you are eligible for this state-level program.
If you have lost income due to COVID-19, you may be able to get a 60-day delay for your eviction case. Please click here for more information from Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia.
If you are having trouble locating resources in Central Virginia or navigating next steps, our office may be able to assist. Please call us at (804) 401-4110 during normal business hours.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal assistance program administered in Virginia by the Virginia Department of Social Services that helps Virginia families buy food. SNAP participants receive an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card that is used like a debit card to buy eligible food from authorized retailers. Virginia has been granted waivers to improve and continue SNAP during the COVID-19 emergency. The waivers that have been approved include:
Suspending Work Requirements
Suspends SNAP’s three-month limit on benefits for adults under age 50 without children in their home. Individuals who are between the ages of 18 and 50, do not have children in their home, and are unemployed were previously not eligible for SNAP benefits due to the three-month time limit. They may now reapply for SNAP.
Providing Additional Benefits for Many Current SNAP Participants
The Virginia Department of Social Services has provided SNAP households with emergency supplementary benefits so all families will receive the maximum benefit for their household size for up to two months. SNAP participants can find the maximum amount for their household size by clicking here.
Changing SNAP Administration and Operations
SNAP participants who would have been required to submit their re-certification paperwork and complete an interview with March, April, and May deadlines have had their deadlines extended to September, October, and November, respectively. Additionally, while new SNAP participants must normally be interviewed in person or over the phone when applying these interviews can now be delayed given the anticipated high volume of applications.
CLICK HERE to apply for SNAP benefits, or apply by phone by calling (855) 635-4370.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a supplemental nutrition program administered by the Virginia Department of Health for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, women who had a baby in the last six months, infants, and children under five years old. The WIC Program provides nutrition support in the form of nutrition education and nutritious foods for eligible participants. The WIC Program also provides breastfeeding support and referrals to appropriate health agencies. WIC eligibility is determined by three main factors:
WIC serves pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, women who had a baby in the last six months, infants, and children under five years old.
The maximum income for Virginia WIC participants is 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Line. For the maximum allowed income per household size, please reference this page prepared by the Virginia Department of Health. Some applicants are automatically eligible for WIC if they receive SNAP benefits, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Applicants must have a nutritional need. This need is typically determined through an appointment at a local WIC office, but due to COVID-19, the requirement that participants physically come into a clinic has been temporarily waived. To learn how your local WIC office is determining nutritional risk, please contact them directly here.
Throughout the Commonwealth, school systems are working hard to ensure students can still access nutritious meals. Even if your child does not usually receive free or reduced-price meals at school, they can receive free meals while schools are closed for COVID-19.
All children 18 years or younger, as well as special needs students under age 21, qualify for free breakfasts and lunches in the county in which they reside. This is true even if your child attends private school or is home schooled.
In addition to reviewing the list below, you can text the word “food” or “comida” to 877-877 to find free school meals closest to you. You can also click here to use this online School Meal Finder tool.
- Amelia County Public Schools students
- Chesterfield County Public Schools students
- Culpeper County Public Schools, please call (540) 825-3677
- Goochland County Public Schools students
- Henrico County Public Schools students
- Louisa County Public Schools students, please email Randy Herman at email@example.com
- Nottoway County Public Schools no longer providing meals
- Orange County Public Schools no longer providing meals
- Powhatan County Public Schools students
- Spotsylvania County Public Schools students
Update on Virtual School Re-Openings (9/8/2020)
- During the virtual fall semester, Richmond Public Schools are continuing to provide breakfast and lunch at distribution sites and through door-to-door drop off. CLICK HERE for more information.
- Henrico County Public Schools have developed a new tool to help students and families locate meal distribution sites this semester. CLICK HERE to find a location near you.
- Chesterfield County Public Schools have extended their meal assistance services. CLICK HERE for more information or call (804) 743-3717.
Coalition of Powhatan Churches Food Pantry
Commonwealth Catholic Charities
(540) 727-0372 ext. 385
Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank
Goochland Cares Food Pantry
Louisa County Resource Council
Virginia Employment Commission (VEC)
Phone: (866) 832-2363
For unemployment insurance information, please visit: http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed
For unemployment insurance frequently asked questions, please visit: http://www.vec.virginia.gov/frequently-asked-questions
For information regarding your VEC local office, please visit: http://www.vec.virginia.gov/find-a-job/vec-local-offices
For more information about Unemployment Insurance benefits and to file a claim, please visit http://www.vec.virginia.gov/node/11699
Given the IRS’ guidance, constituents eligible for the second stimulus payments may find it helpful to file their returns after they have received their payment or received information indicating the conclusion of the second round of stimulus payments. If the IRS does not provide an eligible individual with a second stimulus payment, this waiting period will be helpful in ensuring that the individual does not have to amend their tax return to claim their full balance.
UPDATE September 11, 2020: For Americans who typically don’t file federal income tax returns
If you typically do not file a federal income tax return, you may still be eligible for an Economic Impact Payment but not yet registered to receive one. If this is the case, you can expect a letter from the IRS. Letters will start going out to eligible Americans on September 24.
To guard against fraud attempts, please click here to check any letter you receive against this verified copy on IRS.gov.
Those unable to access the Non-Filers tool may submit a simplified paper return following the procedures described in the Economic Impact Payment FAQs on IRS.gov.
People can also wait until next year and claim it as a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return by filing in 2021.
Beginning two weeks after they register, people can track the status of their payment using the Get My Payment tool, available only on IRS.gov.
UPDATE August 17, 2020: The IRS recently announced it is reopening the registration period for federal beneficiaries who did not receive the $500 per child payment earlier this year. The CARES Act included a $500 credit for children under 17. Some families did not receive credit for all their dependents.
Under the CARES Act, Americans who fall under the following tax filing brackets are entitled to a relief payment (a.k.a. “stimulus check”):
Individual return: $75,000 adjusted gross income or less
Head of household: $112,500 adjusted gross income or less
Filing jointly: $150,000 adjusted gross income or less
If you fall under these limits, you are entitled to a one-time relief payment of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. If you still have not received your one-time relief payment, call my office at (202) 225-2815 or (804) 401-4110.
If your adjusted gross income exceeds these limits, you may still be entitled to a partial payment. You can calculate your expected payment using this formula:
Step 1: Determine your expected rebate before you factor in your income.
(# of children x $500) + (# of adults x $1,200) = Unadjusted Rebate
Step 2: Determine your income discount factor.
(Your income – income threshold) x 5% = Discount Factor
Step 3: Find your income-adjusted rebate.
Unadjusted Rebate – Discount Factor = Income Adjusted Rebate
Example: Married couple with one child making $170,000 annually in adjusted gross income (AGI).
(1 child x $500) + (2 adults x $1,200) = $2,900 Unadjusted Rebate
($170,000 – $150,000) x 5% = ($20,000) x 5% = $1,000 Discount Factor
$2,900 – $1,000 = $1,900 Income Adjusted Rebate
The extended application window for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) closed on August 8, 2020.
Small businesses can still apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Click here for more information and to apply online. If you have questions about EIDL, you can contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) Richmond office at (804) 771-2400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- EIDL is open to small businesses of 499 employees or fewer
- Loans can be used for working capital, including fixed debts, payroll, and other bills that cannot be paid due to COVID-19
- EIDLs are not subject to the loan forgiveness offered under the PPP
Small businesses who have already applied for EIDL may also request an Emergency Economic Injury Grant (EEIG). Grants do not need to be repaid under any circumstance.
- EEIG provides an advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses that have already applied for EIDL
- To access a grant, you must first apply for EIDL and request the advance in the application
- Grants can be used to keep employees on payroll, pay for sick leave, pay rent or mortgage payments, etc.
In addition to efforts at the federal level, many local organizations are offering small business loans, resources, and guidance:
Richmond Times-Dispatch Local Business Stimulus Program
Culpeper Star-Exponent Local Marketing Grant Program
Central Virginia Small Business Development Center
Virginia Chamber of Commerce
Greater Richmond Partnership
Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association
Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce
Culpeper Chamber of Commerce
Goochland County Economic Development Authority
Louisa Chamber of Commerce
Blackstone Chamber of Commerce
Orange Chamber of Commerce
Since this situation is evolving rapidly, I encourage veterans and their families to click here to consult the VA website for the most current information. Guidance from local VA medical facilities about their current operating status is available on each facility’s website, which can be found through the VA’s Facility Locator Tool.
Before visiting local VA medical facilities, community providers, urgent care centers, or emergency departments in their communities, veterans experiencing COVID-19 symptoms — such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath — are encouraged to call their VA medical facility or call MyVA311 (844-698-2311, press #3 to be connected). Veterans can also send secure messages to their health care providers via MyhealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal. VA clinicians will evaluate veterans’ symptoms and direct them to the most appropriate providers for further evaluation and treatment. This may include referral to state or local health departments for COVID-19 testing.
Should I get tested for COVID-19?
The guidance and criteria for testing varies from state to state. In Virginia, you must speak with your healthcare provider to determine whether or not you need a test. If they determine that you should be tested, they will either collect the samples themselves or direct you to another facility for testing.
Like most areas of the country, Virginia currently lacks the capacity to test every single resident. Because of this limitation, your level of risk and severity of illness may play a role in whether or not your healthcare provider decides you need to be tested. For example, if you are experiencing mild symptoms and are not a member of a high-risk group, your healthcare provider may determine that you do not need a test and can safely recover in quarantine at home.
However, if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms AND you fall into one of the following high-risk groups, your healthcare provider will likely recommend that you get tested:
- Health workers and first responders
- Individuals who have been hospitalized
- Individuals who live or work in a congregate setting (group shelters, nursing homes, correctional facilities, etc.)
- Pregnant women
- Newborns whose mother was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the time of delivery
- Uninsured or under-insured individuals
- Individuals with an underlying condition that increases their risk of severe illness (age 65 or older, chronic heart or lung disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.)
In Virginia, tests are distributed to doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities from two sources: the public Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) and some private laboratories.
If your healthcare provider tests through a private lab, they should work directly with that lab to obtain information about sample collection and shipping. Your healthcare provider does not need approval from the Virginia Department of Health for testing through a private lab.
If your healthcare provider tests through DCLS, you must meet the priority testing criteria. Many of those criteria are listed above as high-risk groups. Click here to learn more and see a complete list.
Where can I get tested?
To find a COVID-19 testing site near you, click here to use the Virginia Department of Health’s locator tool.
What will happen during the test?
There are two types of COVID-19 related tests. A viral test determines whether you are currently infected, and a serological or antibody test determines whether you have been infected in the past.
To perform a viral test, the technician will insert a nasopharyngeal swab into the cavity between your nose and mouth and rotate the swab several times. The nasopharyngeal swab looks like a long Q-tip – and while the process is mildly uncomfortable, it is not painful. This process is repeated in both nostrils. To perform a serological test, the technician will draw a sample of blood.
When performing either kind of test, the technician will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) including a gown, a mask, and gloves.
Will I be able to afford it?
If your healthcare provider determines that you meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing, cost should not be a barrier.
Two of the response packages passed by Congress – the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act – include provisions that require COVID-19 testing to be available to those who need it at no cost to the patient. These bills also allocated funding to assist states, hospitals, and health systems in meeting that need.
Insurers are required by law to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing. That said, you should still consult your insurance plan beforehand and seek testing at an in-network provider whenever possible, to minimize out-of-pocket costs. If you have to pay out-of-pocket for a COVID-19 test, file with your insurance provider for reimbursement.
If your healthcare provider administers other tests to rule out other illnesses (ex. an influenza test), you may be charged for those non-COVID-19 tests.
If your healthcare provider determines that you need to be tested for COVID-19 but you are uninsured or unable to afford the cost of a visit and testing, there are still options. Ask your healthcare provider about obtaining a test through DCLS (the public state lab), click here to visit coverVA.org to see if you qualify for Medicaid, and click here to contact your local health department for information on free clinics in your area.
What happens after I get tested?
Regardless of whether your test came from DCLS or a private lab, your healthcare provider will be the one to tell you your results. When they perform the test and collect your nasopharyngeal or blood samples, ask them what the best way to get your results is. They will likely give you your results by phone.
While waiting for test results, you should continue to follow social distancing guidelines, wear a mask, wash your hands well and frequently, exercise caution, and follow any other guidelines given by your healthcare provider. If you are showing symptoms, your healthcare provider may instruct you to self-quarantine at home.
Reliable Sources for Health Info:
Virginia Department of Health
Amelia County Health Department
Chesterfield County Health Department
(804) 748-1691 or (804) 316-8633
Culpeper County Health Department
Goochland County Health Department
Henrico County Health Department
(804) 501-4522 or (804) 501-1610
Louisa County Health Department
Nottoway County Health Department
Orange County Health Department
Powhatan County Health Department
Spotsylvania County Health Department