Senator Secures Key Resources For PA Children and Families, Seniors and People with Disabilities
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is finishing 2020 having delivered results for Pennsylvania families.
Below is a list of Senator Casey’s 2020 work on behalf of Pennsylvania constituents.
Securing COVID-19 Relief for America’s Families
• Securing $100 Million for Nursing Home Oversight: As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law 116-136), provisions from Senator Casey’s Coronavirus Relief for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act (S. 3544) led to the passage of $100 million to promote infection control in nursing homes during the pandemic through enhanced surveys and inspections.
• Shedding Light on the Nursing Home Crisis: Senator Casey authored multiple investigative reports, alongside U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Gary Peters (D-MI), documenting the Trump Administration’s repeated failures to contain the spread of COVID in nursing homes. Following the Senators’ oversight, the Trump Administration implemented federal data collection requirements and the public release of information on COVID cases, deaths and supply shortages in nursing homes.
• Securing $1 Billion to Keep Seniors Safe at Home: Senator Casey led efforts to obtain vital funding to support seniors sheltering in place during the pandemic. Stemming from S. 3544, the Senator secured roughly $1 billion for essential services, including home-delivered meals and caregiver respite, across two relief packages passed by Congress – the CARES Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Public Law 116-260). To date, Pennsylvania has received $47 million of these relief funds.
• Delivering Food Boxes to Seniors in Need: Also stemming from his bill, S. 3544, Senator Casey obtained $13 million in additional funding to support food delivery to low-income seniors during the COVID pandemic through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, also known as the senior food box program. His advocacy also helped to secure an additional $80 million in funding for the program in FY2021. This money will allow states to serve more low-income seniors with shelf-stable food boxes. Both the COVID-19 and FY2021 funding was secured as part of Congress’s year-end agreement (P.L. 116-260).
Standing Up for Seniors
• Passing the Improving Low-Income Access to Prescription Drugs Act: Senator Casey’s bipartisan Improving Low-Income Access to Prescription Drugs Act (S. 1999) was passed into law as part of Congress’s year-end deal (P.L. 116-260). This important legislation makes permanent a federal program to ensure low-income seniors and people with disabilities retain affordable access to their prescription medications as they transition to Medicare.
• Passing the Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act: Senator Casey co-led the bipartisan reauthorization of hallmark legislation, now Public Law 116-131, to deliver essential services and supports to America’s seniors. This 5-year reauthorization provides respite services to grandfamilies, advances innovation and evaluation within the Act, prioritizes funding to bring kids and seniors together, requires data collection on LGBT seniors and ensures younger adults with Alzheimer’s disease are eligible for services.
• Passing a Law to Close Harmful Coverage Gaps in Medicare: Key provisions from Senator Casey’s bipartisan Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification Act (BENES) Act (S. 1280) were passed into law as part of Congress’s year-end agreement (P.L. 116-260). These policies will ensure people new to Medicare have more immediate access to health insurance, closing coverage gaps that led seniors and people with disabilities to go without essential care.
• Securing Continued Support for Grandfamilies: The Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, created by Senator Casey’s bipartisan bill signed into law in 2018, will continue to meet in 2021 as a result of funding the Senator obtained through the appropriations process (P.L. 116-260). The Council is tasked with developing a one-stop shop of resources to help grandparents raising grandchildren navigate programs and benefits.
• Allowing Families to Access Long-Term Care at Home: Through his Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act (S. 2000), Senator Casey continues to stand up for financial protections to prevent spouses whose partners need home and community-based services under Medicaid from falling into abject poverty. Congress’s year-end agreement (P.L. 116-260) includes a 3-year extension of these vital protections.
• Advancing Best Practices to Stop Senior Scams: Senator Casey’s bipartisan Stop Senior Scams Act (S. 149) passed the U.S. Senate. The Senator’s bill would establish a federal advisory council charged with bringing together relevant government officials, industry representatives, advocates and consumer representatives to collect and develop model educational materials for retailers, financial institutions and wire transfer companies to use in stopping scams on seniors.
• Combatting Age Discrimination in the Workplace: Senator Casey’s bipartisan Protecting Older Workers from Age Discrimination Act (S. 485) passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senator’s bill would restore standards undone by a 2009 Supreme Court decision that made it more difficult for older workers to successfully seek restitution in court for age discrimination they experienced.
Leading Efforts for Individuals with Disabilities
• Fighting for Continued Access to Disability Benefits and Supports: Senator Casey led efforts, along with 40 Senators, to call for the withdrawal of a proposed rule that would make it more difficult for people with Social Security disability benefits to retain needed support. The Senator also led an initiative to encourage the public to tell the Social Security Administration directly how the proposal would harm them, resulting in more than 125,000 comments submitted on the rule.
• Promoting Care Continuity from Home to the Hospital: The CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) included a provision that Senator Casey fought for to ensure direct service providers could enter and provide services and supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who were admitted to hospitals and rehabilitation settings because of COVID or other health-related concerns. Making it possible for those providers who care for people in their homes while they are in the hospital allows for continuity of care, better communication among hospital and community caregivers and makes the transition back to their homes safer and healthier.
• Preventing COVID Infections Among People with Disabilities: Senator Casey advocated that the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) include funding increases for Centers for Independent Living to provide COVID prevention services during the pandemic. Pennsylvania received $2.75 million to be distributed among its eleven federal Centers for Independent Living. The funds make it possible to provide people with disabilities with personal protective equipment (PPE) in their own homes, to transition from congregate care settings to home settings, to translate COVID information into other languages and many more preventive actions to reduce the risk of infection for people with disabilities.
Fighting for Rural Communities and Expanding Broadband Access
• Supporting Rural Innovation: Senator Casey secured increased funding for the Small Business Administration’s Regional Innovation Clusters (RIC) program in the FY 2021 appropriations bill (P.L. 116-260). The RIC program provides an increased focus on outreach to rural areas in leveraging a region's unique competitive strengths and geographically-concentrated, interconnected network of complementary businesses, suppliers and associated organizations that engage in a particular industry sector. These types of programs are essential to Pennsylvania businesses to fight the economic effects of COVID-19.
• Don’t Break Up the T-Band: Senator Casey led efforts with U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and other colleagues to enact the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act into law (P.L. 116-260). The Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act will ensure that our brave first responders throughout Pennsylvania and the rest of the country have access to the tools they need to effectively communicate with other first responders when responding to public safety emergencies.
• Hyndman Cellular Tower: In October, Senator Casey announced the completion of a project to provide cellular service in Bedford County via Hyndman Cellular Tower, ensuring that thousands of Bedford County residents have reliable service. After train derailments and feedback from local and state first responders highlighted the urgent need for better emergency response telecommunications, Senator Casey advocated for more than two years for AT&T to prioritize rural areas like Hyndman for First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) tower sites.
Fighting for Jobs and a Secure Retirement
• Standing up for Federal Workers: Senator Casey led a letter opposing proposed changes to the Department of Defense’s procurement policy in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have undermined the role depots and shipyards play in the readiness and maintenance of our armed forces. This effort led to stringent oversight requirements over decisions that lead to undermining depot and shipyard workforces.
• Fighting for Pay Equity for Army Depot Workers: A version of Senator Casey’s Locality Pay Equity Act (S. 3015) was included in the FY 2021 NDAA passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation would put an end to locality pay adjustment disparities between salaried and hourly workers at federal facilities, including Tobyhanna and Letterkenny Army Depots in Pennsylvania.
• Strengthening Unemployment Benefits: Senator Casey pushed for the expansion and strengthening of unemployment benefits for workers affected by COVID as was done in the CARES Act that passed into law in March (P.L. 116-136). Senator Casey also strongly pushed for the extension of vital unemployment benefit programs that were slated to expire at the end of this year, which was achieved in the end-of-year relief package (P.L. 116-260).
Fighting to Combat Hunger and Support our Farmers
• Leading Efforts to Expand Access to Food for the Most Vulnerable: As the pandemic increased food insecurity for households who lost access to paychecks, Senator Casey worked to build the capacity of the food assistance system to assist families in Pennsylvania and across the country. He led letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and grocery retailers urging innovative solutions to expand access to home delivery and curbside pickup for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, especially for seniors and immunocompromised individuals. He introduced the Increasing Access to SNAP Delivery During COVID-19 Act to support retailers in expanding their SNAP delivery offerings during the pandemic. Senator Casey also advocated for and supported Pennsylvania’s participation in the SNAP Online Purchasing Program and will continue working for additional access to delivery services.
• Advocating for the Expansion of Hunger Assistance Programs: Senator Casey fought to protect critical nutrition assistance programs for our most vulnerable citizens. From the beginning of the COVID pandemic, he advocated for the expansion of SNAP benefits to respond to the food insecurity crisis. He led a Pennsylvania delegation letter urging the inclusion of a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits levels. A six-month increase in these benefits was ultimately included in the most recent COVID relief package (P.L. 116-260). Senator Casey also advocated for critical nutrition waivers for Pennsylvania to access food assistance and necessary flexibilities throughout the pandemic. In addition to COVID-related food security needs, he also led appropriations efforts to support the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), a program modeled after Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative.
• Supporting our Farmers and Food Production System: Senator Casey worked tirelessly to support our farmers, who play a critical role in feeding families throughout Pennsylvania and the Nation. He introduced and co-sponsored legislation to support farmers who faced significant market losses and supply chain disruptions. He introduced the Farmers Feeding Families Act, building on his work to establish Farm to Food Bank projects in the 2018 Farm Bill. He was also an original cosponsor of the Food Supply Protection Act to help strengthen the food supply chain, protect workers, reduce food waste and support farmers and families in need. Additionally, Senator Casey led a Pennsylvania delegation letter to the Small Businesses Administration to ensure that loans and programs are available and work for farmers and agricultural businesses.
Protecting the Environment
• Securing 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 2021 spending agreement (P.L. 116-260). Senator Casey also introduced the bipartisan Farmer Driven Conservation Outcomes Act, which would direct USDA to establish a process through which it could measure, evaluate and report on conservation program outcomes, including water quality improvements. He continues to build on wins from the 2018 Farm Bill for water quality by ensuring that programs are implemented to benefit the Bay. He led a bipartisan letter to USDA regarding implementation of key provisions in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to improve water quality.
• Addressing the Climate Crisis: Senator Casey worked to address the climate crisis through efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect the health of our communities, create good paying jobs and address environmental injustices. He was an original cosponsor of the Clean Economy Act of 2020, which would empower the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to design and implement a national plan to rapidly reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner. He continued to stand up against the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll back bedrock environmental laws. Additionally, Senator Casey is working to ensure that farmers can be part of the solution to address the climate crisis by introducing legislation to measure, evaluate and report on the outcomes associated with farm bill conservation programs, including carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
• PFAS Contamination: Senator Casey continued to stand up for communities impacted by PFAS contamination. He fought for inclusion of key PFAS provisions in the NDAA and advocated for funding to expand PFAS monitoring, standards development and cleanup capabilities. Senator Casey also continued to engage in efforts to implement a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study on the effects of PFAS on long-term health. He led efforts to secure this funding and Pennsylvania’s Bucks and Montgomery Counties were included in the multi-year site study.
• Preserving Public Lands in Pennsylvania: Senator Casey introduced legislation to extend authorization of Pennsylvania’s National Heritage Areas (NHAs). The Pennsylvania National Heritage Area Act would extend authorization of the Pennsylvania NHAs set to expire between FY 2021 and FY 2022. Additionally, this legislation would eliminate incongruent funding restrictions and streamline appropriations levels for NHAs. Senator Casey will continue to work to ensure these extensions are secured and to protect our natural and cultural resources while strengthening communities and stimulating local economies.
Fighting for Miners’ Benefits
• Leading Efforts to Protect Retired Miners: Senator Casey successfully advocated for language in the year-end agreement (P.L. 116-260) to protect the health care benefits of all retired miners in the event of future bankruptcies, no matter when the bankruptcies occur. Previous efforts to protect coal miner health care specified the year of a company's bankruptcy; The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) anticipate the remaining coal companies with retiree health care obligations will declare bankruptcy within the next 6-12 months. This language will ensure coal miners’ health care is fully covered if a coal company goes bankrupt and also ensures Congress does not have to act each time a company is relieved of its obligations to pay for retiree health care by a bankruptcy court. According to UMWA, the majority of retirees and widows covered by this provision are over 80 years old.
Standing Up For Veterans
• Veterans Affairs and Veteran Health: Senator Casey and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), working with House colleague U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA-2), successfully introduced and passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Website Accessibility Act (P.L. 116-213). This law directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to report to Congress regarding the accessibility of VA websites (including attached files and web-based applications) to individuals with disabilities. Senator Casey continues to advocate for robust funding for veterans health, supporting efforts to secure PPE, vaccines, mental health support and additional resources to VA workers and patients in response to the COVID pandemic.
• Passage of the Rosie the Riveter Congressional Gold Medal Act: The bipartisan Rosie the Riveter Congressional Gold Medal Act honors American women who joined the workforce in support of the war effort during World War II by awarding them a Congressional Gold Medal. These “Rosie the Riveters” answered the Nation’s call to action and learned new skills, many building the vehicles, weaponry and ammunitions that were critical to the war effort. Senator Casey led the effort along with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and U.S. Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1). 76 senators co-sponsored the Senate bill, including every female senator, and it has now been enacted into Public Law 116-195.
Keeping Communities Safe and Our Judiciary Working
• Law Enforcement Reform: In response to a national reckoning regarding the systemic violence and injustice impacting communities of color across the Nation, Senator Casey helped to advance a critical conversation focused on transformative change within law enforcement. Senator Casey joined thirty-four of his colleagues, led by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), to introduce the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The bill would put in place the most significant police reforms in our Nation's history by focusing on officer accountability, data transparency and enhancing police practices and training.
He also led the Law Enforcement Education and Accountability for People with Disabilities (LEAD) Initiative to help counter the high rate of violent interactions between police and people with disabilities. The LEAD Initiative is comprised of two bills – the Safe Interactions Act and the Human-services Emergency Logistic Program (HELP) Act. Combined, these bills would: (1) divert non-criminal, non-fire and non-medical emergency calls from the 9-1-1 system to the 2-1-1 system; and (2) provide grants to enable non-profit disability organizations to develop training programs in partnership with police academies and agencies to support safe interactions between law enforcement officers and people with disabilities.
• Fighting for Prison Safety During COVID: Senator Casey has repeatedly pressed the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for answers and reforms in response to the COVID pandemic. Senator Casey wrote multiple letters in March and April to DOJ and BOP leadership raising significant concerns about BOP’s inmate transfer policies, supply of PPE and other general concerns related to the BOP’s preparation for COVID. After raising these concerns and calling on the DOJ to require mandatory testing before transferring any incarcerated individual, BOP announced in May that it had decreased internal movement by 90 percent and committed to testing all incarcerated individuals prior to leaving a local detention facility.
• Criminal Justice Reform: Senator Casey introduced the bipartisan Clean Slate Act of 2020 with U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), which would automatically seal the federal records of individuals convicted or arrested for simple drug possession, and establish a process for individuals to petition to seal records for other nonviolent offenses. This landmark piece of legislation would give tens of millions of Americans a second chance to fully participate in society by removing major barriers for finding employment, securing housing and accessing education. The Clean Slate Act is modeled after Pennsylvania’s own “Clean Slate Act,” which was the first Clean Slate law in the Nation after it was enacted into law with tremendous bipartisan support in 2018.
• Federal Judges: Senator Casey worked with U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) to confirm two more Federal judges to the District Courts in PA. Since 2011, Senators Casey and Toomey have worked together, in a bipartisan fashion, to fill vacancies on the federal bench in Pennsylvania. Together they have now vetted, recommended and confirmed 27 Federal District Court Judges for Pennsylvania. Only two states - New York and Texas - have had more district court judges confirmed to their federal benches during this time.
• Combat Online Predators: Senator Casey led efforts with Senator Toomey to enact the Combat Online Predators Act into law in December 2020 (P.L. 116-249). This bipartisan law 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 for Consumer Health
• Leading Senate Efforts to Modernize FDA Regulation of Over-the-Counter Drugs: Senator Casey, along with retired U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), led a multi-year effort to overhaul and modernize the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory authority for over-the-counter (OTC) monograph drugs. These products, including drugs like painkillers, allergy medicines and sunscreens, are used by millions of Americans and are subject to certain requirements known as “monographs.” The OTC system was outdated, making it hard for FDA to take action to protect public health and hard for companies to innovate. With the passage of the Over-the-Counter Monograph Safety, Innovation, and Reform Act (P.L. 116-136), the FDA has new tools and resources at its disposal, and consumers will benefit from increased regulatory oversight and new innovation.
Fighting for Children
• Leading Efforts to Increase Federal and State Efforts to Investigate and Collect Information When an Infant or Young Child Die: Senator Casey’s bipartisan legislation, named after Pittsburgh child Scarlett Pauley, will help combat Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Unexpected Death in Childhood by providing grants to help states, municipalities and nonprofits improve data collection and death scene investigations related to unexpected infant and child deaths. The bill will also help promote safe sleep practices for children and support local efforts to conduct infant and child death reviews. This legislation was signed into law by the President as Public Law 116-273 on December 31, 2020.
• Leading Efforts to Extend the Creating Hope Act: Senator Casey led a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Creating Hope Act, which authorized the FDA’s pediatric priority review voucher program. This important program encourages the development of new drugs to treat rare pediatric diseases, and was first authorized in 2012 following Senator Casey’s efforts. The Creating Hope Reauthorization Act was included as a provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (P.L. 116-260) and extends the program for an additional four years.
• Leading Efforts to Reauthorize Critical Program for Emergency Medical Care for Children: Senator Casey led a bipartisan, bicameral coalition to reauthorize the Emergency Medical Services for Children (P.L. 116-49), a federal program that works to improve the quality of emergency care provided to children and ensure that hospitals and emergency workers providing emergency care to children are properly equipped.
Fighting for Health Care
• 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 $10 million from $340 to $350 million for FY2021 (P.L. 116-159).
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 Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody. The report revealed that CBP illegally used funds designated for medical care and food for children in detention on dirt bikes, dog food and leashes, boats and other unrelated items. The report also shined a light on significant gaps in care for children in custody and CBP’s failure to follow its own health and safety guidelines.
Helping Children Learn More Now to Earn More Later
• Early Care and Education COVID Relief: Senator Casey has fought to provide assistance to childcare providers facing financial hardship and families struggling to find care due to COVID. In March, aspects of Senator Casey’s Supporting Child Care Providers and Families Affected by Coronavirus Act (S. 3562) was included in the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136), helping to secure $3.5 billion in emergency relief for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and $750 billion for Head Start. His continued advocacy to provide an additional $50 billion for early education helped to secure $10 billion for CCDBG and $250 million for Head Start COVID relief in the FY2021 omnibus appropriations and COVID relief legislation (P.L. 116-260).
• Ensuring Opportunity For Students: Senator Casey’s Stopping Unfair Collateral Consequences from Ending Student Success Act or “SUCCESS Act” (S.5079) was included in the FY2021 omnibus appropriations and COVID relief legislation (P.L. 116-260). The SUCCESS Act repeals provisions of the Higher Education Act that limits access to federal student aid for students convicted of drug-related offenses. To date, according to the ALCU, this provision has prevented about 200,000 students from receiving federal student aid. This legislation will help to reduce recidivism, over-criminalization and taxpayer burdens by stopping the suspension of college aid for young people who made a mistake but want to get their lives back on track. It affirms that the United States is a country of second chances, not second punishments.
Protecting the Nation and Promoting American Values Abroad
• International Disability Rights: Senator Casey introduced the Office of International Disability Rights Act (S. 3880) to require the State Department to develop and implement a formal policy for disability inclusion in foreign assistance programming and establish State Department Office of International Disability Rights headed by an Ambassador-at-Large (AAL) for International Disability Rights. He also introduced S. Res. 445, a resolution recognizing International Day of Persons with Disabilities. These efforts to promote disability rights globally will continue into the 117th Congress.
• Global Impacts of COVID: Senator Casey led letters to the Trump Administration urging increased funding to combat increasingly global food insecurity due to COVID, as well as assessment of COVID’s impact on children’s mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). Senator Casey intends to introduce legislation next Congress addressing child MHPSS globally.
• Promoting a Peaceful and Inclusive Future: Senator Casey successfully secured $10 million in the FY21 NDAA to improve training and inclusion of Afghan women in Afghanistan’s security forces. These efforts will serve to integrate and create opportunities for Afghan women to have a say in Afghanistan’s future. Senator Casey and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) also led a letter to the Trump Administration urging emergency humanitarian funding for the Nagorno-Karabakh region for the clearance of cluster munitions deployed during the fall 2020 hostilities that put children at particular risk of exposure to unexploded ordnance. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 was signed into law as Public Law 116-283 on January 1, 2021.