Senator Secures Key Resources For PA Children, Families & Seniors
Washington, D.C. - Despite rancor and gridlock, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is finishing 2019 having successfully fought on behalf of his constituents. Senator Casey’s 2019 work includes securing miners’ pensions and health care, working to phase out the use of dangerous PFAS chemicals and modernizing the regulation of over-the-counter drugs.
Below is a list of Senator Casey’s 2019 work on behalf of Pennsylvania constituents.
Fighting for Jobs and a Secure Retirement
- Retirement and Health Security for Pennsylvania’s Miners: The Bipartisan American Miners Act, S.2788, which Senator Casey co-authored, was included in the 2019 end-of-year funding agreement. This legislation secures the pensions for 11,550 Pennsylvanians and the healthcare for 2,070 Pennsylvanians and their families. Enactment of this legislation is a culmination of over half a decade of work. This legislation includes provisions to shore up the 1974 Pension Plan, which is headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. It would also ensure that miners, whose healthcare is at risk due to 2018 and 2019 coal company bankruptcies, will not lose their health benefits.
- Passage of CHARITY Act Provision to Simplify the Foundation Excise Tax: A CHARITY Act, S.1475 (Thune-Casey-Wyden), provision to simplify the excise tax on foundations was included in the 2019 end-of-year funding agreement. The provision simplifies the private foundation excise tax at a single rate of 1.39 percent, at no cost to taxpayers. This simplification eliminates the current, two-tiered system that inhibited foundations from increasing grantmaking during times of need, such as a recession.
- Central Focus on the Economic Challenges Facing Workers and Families: Senator Casey worked to secure broad Democratic Caucus support to expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. This legislation was included in the House Ways and Means-passed Economic Mobility Act of 2019, H.R.3300. The cost of child care has increased by 25 percent over the past decade, creating significant financial strain for middle-class families. This bill would provide significant support to help all working families cover the cost of childcare.
- Enhance Taxpayer Access to Information about Tax Scams: Two provisions proposed by Senator Casey were incorporated in HR 3151, the Taxpayer First Act, enacted into law as Public Law 116-25.
- Section 1406 directs IRS/Treasury to provide useful information to taxpayers about common scams and how to report scams, including information about common tax scams, information on where and how to report tax scams and advice on how taxpayers can protect themselves from identity theft and tax scams.
- Section 7529 (B)(C): Many Americans don’t realize that when tax fraud is discovered these crimes are not automatically reported and referred to law enforcement. Section 7529 (B)(C) includes a directive to IRS and Treasury to provide the information taxpayers need to report tax-related identity theft. Often times these crimes don’t go reported because (1) victims assume the IRS is investigating and (2) don’t know what information needs to be provided. Because taxpayer information is protected, law enforcement cannot investigate tax fraud without explicit permission from a taxpayer.
Promoting Economic Development for Pennsylvania Communities
- Appalachian Development Highway System: Senator Casey helped to secure $100 million in funding for the Appalachian Development Highway System. This is new money is designated for the completion of the ADHS system. Pennsylvania will likely get a large portion of this, which could, for example, be used to complete Route 219 in Somerset County.
- Lower Mon Project: Senator Casey advocated for additional funding for the Lower Mon Project in Western Pennsylvania, securing $111 million. The locks and dams on the Monongahela River are old and failure would dramatically impact commerce in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Obtaining this funding is critical upgrading the Western PA inland waterway system.
- Nuclear Power Plant Closures: The year-end appropriations bill also includes $15 million through the Department of Commerce to support communities dealing with the closure of a nuclear power plant. It is anticipated that this funding will be used to assist the area around Three Mile Island.
Fighting to Combat Hunger Among Children
- Introduction of Child Nutrition Priorities: Senator Casey introduced several bills aimed at expanding access to healthy food for children in the Senate Agriculture Committee's upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Senators Casey and Collins introduced their bipartisan Wise Investment in Children (WIC) Act to expand nutrition access for children and mothers. Additionally, Senator Casey has introduced legislation to improve the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) as well as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in order to expand access to healthy food.
- Advocated for the Protection of Hunger Assistance Programs: Senator Casey is fighting to protect critical nutrition assistance programs for our most vulnerable citizens. He continues to stand up against attacks to limit access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). He led a Pennsylvania delegation letter opposing the Administration’s proposed rules and continues to speak out against proposals that threaten access to food for children and families and which are counter to the bipartisan agreement of the 2018 Farm Bill to protect SNAP. Senator Casey also led appropriations efforts to support funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), including increased support for TEFAP storage and distribution, as well as for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), a program modeled after Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative.
Standing Up For Veterans
- Veterans Exposed to Toxic Substances: Casey has also played a role in supporting access to benefits for Veterans exposed to toxic substances during military service. This includes co-sponsorship of the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act (S. 1195), which passed in June 2019 and will ensure that Veterans exposed to Agent Orange while stationed on ships during the Vietnam war will receive presumptive coverage for related health effects. Senator Casey also supported passage of the Burn Pits Accountability Act via the NDAA to assess the health impacts of servicemembers’ exposure to burn pits and lay the groundwork for presumptive coverage.
- Exposed the VA for Abruptly Denying Access to Caregiver Program: After the review of data regarding participation in the VA Caregiver program, Senator Casey exposed the Department for abruptly terminating veterans from the program, prompting an internal review by the VA into policies and procedures for determining eligibility into the program.
Protecting the Environment
- Secured Funding for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed: Senator Casey joined the Chesapeake Bay delegation in working to secure increased funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program in the FY 2020 spending agreement. Senator Casey also wrote to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service requesting that any carryover funding be directed to support additional on-farm conservation in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Additionally, Senator Casey continues to build on wins from the 2018 Farm Bill for water quality by ensuring that programs are implemented to benefit the Bay and by providing outreach and information to farmers and partners who can utilize these programs.
- PFAS Contamination: Senator Casey cosponsored the PFAS Action Act, which would require PFAS to be designated under the Superfund Act. He fought for inclusion of key PFAS provision in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and led a delegation letter demanding interagency coordination between DoD, EPA and CDC to address PFAS contamination in PA. While the final NDAA did not include Superfund or drinking water provisions, it did include directions for the military to phase out the use of PFAS-based firefighting foam beginning in 2024, as well as other provisions related to PFAS remediation and study. Senator Casey led efforts to authorize and secure funding for a CDC study on the effects of PFAS on long-term health, and Pennsylvania’s Bucks and Montgomery Counties were included in the multi-site study announced this year. Additionally, Senator Casey also helped secure PFAS remediation and base cleanup in the final FY 2020 appropriations legislation.
- Preserved Public Lands in Pennsylvania: Senator Casey secured two measures in the Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) to establish the Susquehanna National Heritage Area in Lancaster and York counties and to provide a funding fix to ensure the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Pittsburgh remains able to receive federal funding. Further, provisions of the Oil Region National Heritage Area Reauthorization Act (S. 1265), which Senator Casey introduced, were included in the end of year spending deal, extending authorization through September 30, 2022. The extension of the region's status as a National Heritage Area will ensure that it can continue to benefit from the infusion of Federal, state and tourism dollars that come from a Heritage Area designation.
Keeping Communities Safe and Our Judiciary Working
- Nine District Court Judges Confirmed in Pennsylvania: Senator Casey has worked with Senator Toomey to confirm nine more Federal judges to the District Courts in PA. They include: Joshua Wolfson (EDPA); J. Nicholas Ranjan (WDPA); John Milton Young (EDPA); Stephanie Haines (WDPA); William Stickman (WDPA); Jennifer Wilson (MDPA); Rob Colville (WDPA); Karen Marston (EDPA); and John Gallagher (EDPA).
- Community Oriented Policing Services: Senator Casey worked to secure additional funding for the COPS Program, which has been funded at $343 million for FY20, an increase of nearly $40 million more than the FY19 level. It will, among other things, place approximately 1,300 more police officers on the streets of our communities.
- Combat Online Predators: Senator Casey worked with Senator Toomey to pass the Combat Online Predators Act in the Senate. This bipartisan bill was drafted in response to the traumatic experiences of a Pennsylvania family and will give judges additional tools to ensure that perpetrators who stalk or cyberstalk children are held accountable with serious penalties.
Fighting Gun Violence
- Federal Funding into Gun Violence: Senator Casey worked to secure $25 million in funding for gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. This is the first funding to study gun violence that has been allocated in over 20 years.
Fighting for Health Care
- Funding for the National Institutes of Health: The final FY2020 appropriations deal included an additional $2.6 billion for the National Institutes of Health, bringing the total NIH budget for FY 2020 to $41.5 billion. Pennsylvania researchers successfully compete for billions of dollars in NIH grants each year. Senator Casey leads the annual appropriations letter requesting robust funding for the NIH.
- Health Care Oversight: Senator Casey has led efforts to expose and stop efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. He released a report in the fall highlighting the ways in which the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans are working to destroy, dismantle and defund the law. A link to the report can be found here.
- Improved Health Care Consumer Protections by Cracking Down on False Online Advertisements: Following reports of false and misleading online advertisements for health insurance, Senator Casey conducted an investigation into the types of advertisements displayed to Pennsylvanians seeking to purchase affordable health care online. The investigative report documented the proliferation of advertisements falsely claiming to be HealthCare.gov. As a result of the investigation, Google agreed to remove the false advertisements.
- Senate Passage of OTC Monograph Reform: In December the Senate passed the Over-the-Counter Monograph Safety, Innovation, and Reform Act, landmark legislation to reform the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate non-prescription “over-the-counter” medications. This legislation addresses the outdated and inefficient monograph process, which FDA’s own leadership and consumer advocates have highlighted as being in need of improvement.
- Complex Manual Wheelchairs: Enacted into law S. 1223, the Protecting Beneficiary Access to Complex Rehab Technology Act, which Senator Casey introduced with Senator Portman to exempt complex rehab technology from competitive bidding pricing under Medicare. The provision exempts manual technology from bidding requirements to ensure that people with disabilities can retain access to complex rehab technology and accessories.
- Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) Program: Senator Casey, the Senate champion of the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) and author of several laws to extend and improve the program, secured additional funding for the program through the appropriations process. Funding for the program was increased by $15 million from $325 to $340 million for FY2020
Helping Children Learn More Now So They Can Earn More Later
- Early Childhood Development and Learning: Senator Casey is one of the Senate champions on early childhood education, leading his colleagues every year in seeking appropriations for Head Start and child care. This year, under his leadership, the FY 2020 Labor /HHS appropriations bill secured an increase of $1.1 billion for early learning, including $550 million for Head Start and $550 million for CCDBG. Total for Head Start is $10.61 billion and total for CCDBG is $5.82 billion. Senator Casey also requested and securing increased funding for early learning under the IDEA program.
- National Center for Information and Technical Support for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities: After the Department of Education ordered it shuttered, Senator Casey secured $500,000 for the Center through the appropriations process. This funding will allow it to serve as a critical resource for postsecondary students with disabilities and the institutions who serve them. The Center provides technical assistance and information to college students, faculty, disability services professionals, and researchers. It also collects information and reports to the Department about the status of college students with disabilities.
- HBCU Permanent Funding: Congress passed permanent funding for minority-serving institutions, including HBCUs on December 10, 2019. President Trump signed the bill into law on December 19, 2019. Senator Casey worked with Senate Democrats to press Senate Republicans to stop blocking the funding, which had expired in September 2019. Senator Casey asked unanimous consent to take up and pass the FUTURE Act. He also signed letters urging quick passage of funding.
Fighting the Administration’s Immigration Cruelty
- Care of Immigrant Children in U.S. Custody: At Senator Casey’s request, The Government Accountability Office opened an investigation into the conditions and care of migrants, including children, in CBP custody. The report, expected in the spring of 2020, will analyze, among other things, the adequacy of current health protocols and screenings, as well as provide an analysis of how DHS has used supplemental funding slated for humanitarian purposes.
Standing Up for Seniors
- Groundbreaking Investigation into Under Performing Nursing Homes: Senator Casey conducted a groundbreaking investigation into underperforming nursing homes, which resulted in the first-ever release of a secret list, maintained by the Federal government, of the 400 of the poorest performing facilities. This list brought greater transparency to families seeking to find a home for a loved one and greater oversight and accountability to these facilities.
- Spearheaded Efforts to Promote Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs: Senator Casey convened three hearings in the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and participated in three hearings in the Senate Finance Committee related to the price of prescription drugs. He also introduced and supported legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, allow for the importation of prescription drugs from countries like Canada, cap out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs for seniors, facilitate prescription drug price transparency, and enhance affordability for low-income seniors.
- Secured $300,000 Funding to Support Grandfamilies: The Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, which stems from Senator Casey’s 2018 law, will continue to be able to meet in 2020 as a result of $300,000 in new funding which Casey obtained through the appropriations process. The council, which met for the first time in 2019, is tasked with developing a one-stop shop of resources to help grandparents raising grandchildren navigate federal, state and local programs and benefits.
- Secured $246 million to Fight Senior Hunger: Senator Casey secured $246 million, an increase of $23 million in FY2020 to help fight senior hunger through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, commonly known as the senior food box. This program provides shelf stable food to at-risk seniors. The new funding comes following the passage of Senator Casey’s Nourishing Our Golden Years Act, which modernized the program in 2018.
- Convened Advocates & Stakeholder in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.: In an effort to highlight the voices of Pennsylvanians, Senator Casey convened conferences on issues of importance, including issues facing seniors and miners, in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. These conferences fostered dialogue between advocates and elected officials with hundreds in attendance.
Leading Efforts for Individuals with Disabilities
Senate Casey continues to be the Senate’s leader on disability rights, leading on a total of 19 disability policy bills covering education, health, employment, financial security, civil rights, disaster preparation and relief, veterans and social security. Eight of the bills had a Republican co-sponsor and 14 of the bills had a House companion.
- Fighting Back on Untested Social Media Surveillance of People with Disabilities: In response to a letter from Senator Casey and Sen. Brown, the Social Security Administration agreed to stop any plans to implement social media monitoring of people receiving SSI or SSDI.
- Seeking a Fair Wage for People with Disabilities: Senator Casey introduced legislation to eliminate the use of outdated subminimum wages that pay well below market rates for the labor of people with disabiliities. In furtherance of that effort, he also secured language in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill directing the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division to collect data on the number of individuals paid subminimum wage, the number of subminimum wage employers, the wages paid to their workers, and to provide a briefing to authorizing and appropriations staff on the findings.
- Fighting Budget Cuts for Programs Serving People with Disabilities: Senator Casey led the fight in the Senate against proposed Trump Administration cuts to programs serving people with disabilities. Though proposed cuts to the Special Olympics, later rescinded under pressure, were the most visible, they were just one part of a broader assault on disability related funding. Senator Casey wrote to the Trump Administration in April arguing against cuts and instead in favor of a budget that reflect the goals of the ADA: equal opportunity, independent living, full participation and economic self-sufficiency.
- Securing Additional Funding for Programs to Improve the Lives of People with Disabilities:
- Community Integration and Competitive Employment: Secured $1 million to create a pilot program to develop models of transition for youth with developmental and intellectual disabilities from schools to community/employment.
- Independent Living: Secured $2M additional to NIDILRR to develop greater community-based technologies for independent living for people with disabilities and older adults.
- Postsecondary Education: Secured $11.8M to continue TPSID (Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) and to provide for a new five year competition for the programs.
- Seclusion and Restraints: Secured appropriations language directing the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights to continue collection of information about the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and to improve the accuracy and completeness of the data collected.
- International Disability Rights: Senator Casey led a bicameral delegation in the introduction of a resolution recognizing International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on December 3. The legislation highlights the unique struggles faced by individuals with disabilities and reiterates Congressional support for efforts to promote inclusivity and accessibility for people with disabilities around the world.
Protecting the Nation and Promoting American Values Abroad
- Countering Chinese Government Aggression: Senator Casey has been fighting to counter the Chinese government’s intellectual property theft from Pennsylvania’s academic research institutions. Through the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), he secured a provision requiring the Department of Defense to provide training to academic research institutions and personnel on unclassified and sensitive national security information. The amendment will help ensure that universities are better protected against IP theft by malign foreign actors.
- Seeking responsible policy in the Middle East: Senator Casey continues to support efforts toward a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He continues to speak out against the Administration’s efforts to undermine peace and stability in the Middle East and supports Congressional checks on the President’s incendiary actions toward Iran. To that end, Senator Casey co-sponsored provisions to prohibit the United States from expending funds which could lead to war with Iran without express approval from Congress, as required by the Constitution. Senator Casey will continue to fight to assert constitutionally-vested congressional authority over the decision to go to war and will push against reckless and thoughtless decisions that put Americans in harm’s way.
Senator Casey also jointly introduced a resolution with Sen. Lankford to affirm the work of Operation Good Neighbor, a partnership of the Israeli government, US NGO’s, including faith-based organizations, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to provide humanitarian relief to Syrians. Operation Good Neighbor has helped to provide secure and safe access for NGOs throughout southern Syria. The bicameral, bipartisan resolution affirms the unique collaboration across government agencies, military personnel, and NGO’s to ensure safety for refugees across the region.
- Promoting our Health Security: Senator Casey led the effort in securing $360 million for congressionally directed Department of Defense medical research into critical conditions, including hepatitis, pancreatitis and mitochondrial disease, as well as potentially lifesaving blood technologies.
- Bipartisan Hearing on China’s Economic Influence Campaign: Senators Casey and Cornyn continued their bipartisan work in the Finance Subcommittee on International Trade Customs and Global Competitiveness. As a Subcommittee, the Senators have held a series of hearings focused on the challenges posed by China. Their most recent hearing covered the Chinese Government's Belt and Road Initiative, and its efforts to export their economic and authoritarian system. This work will continue in the new year.
- Bolstering Pennsylvania’s Defense Industrial Base: Senator Casey continues to champion Pennsylvania’s contributions to U.S. national security and the American warfighter’s capability to effectively combat our enemies abroad. Among other things, he has led efforts to ensure that the Army continues with Chinook helicopter Block II production, built by UAW workers in Philadelphia. He has supported funding to expand the industrial base for the Columbia Class Submarine, to which several PA companies will be contributing.