(NBC News) — Every morning when Christina Preston enters the West Community Opportunity Center, which serves Ohio’s Franklin County, she knows she and her staff are going to be flooded with calls and applications from people in desperate need of help.
Their despair could become even more acute next month as the national public health emergency comes to an end. That could lead to millions of people’s losing access to Medicaid and other benefits.
“We’re planning for it as best we can, but the way we’re looking at it right now is triage,” said Preston, the center director for one of the three local job and family services branches in Columbus. “I don’t even really want to imagine it right now. It’s going to be huge.”
Across the country, local agencies like Preston’s are preparing for the unraveling of the expanded social safety net that was created in response to the coronavirus pandemic — and, most significantly, the end of continuous Medicaid coverage, which expires Jan. 15, at the end of the public health emergency, unless the Biden administration extends it.