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'We can get there': Casey says he's still hopeful on Democrats' massive social spending investments

Matt Slocum
U.S. Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Scranton, says he is hopeful about continuing the child tax credit and other social spending.

The social safety net expansions President Biden has proposed are stalled in the U.S. Senate, held up by Republican opposition and conservative Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. But Pennsylvania’s senior U.S. Senator Bob Casey said in an interview with WESA on Monday that he is hopeful at least some parts of the president’s Build Back Better agenda will move forward, though he said the legislative path isn’t clear now.

“I can't sit here today and pretend that I know what that pathway will be,” he said.

The massive bill includes investments in early childhood education, health care, efforts to combat climate change, and more.

In particular, Casey said he’s hopeful both the expanded Child Tax Credit, which paid families up to $300 per month per child, and additional federal funds for home and community-based services for seniors and people with disabilities can become law, either as part of Build Back Better or some other legislation.

“I think that, despite some concerns that have been raised by Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema, we can get there,” he said.

Families received their final monthly tax credit payment in December; they will get one last lump sum payment when they file a 2021 tax return. The payments helped many families pay for childcare and other necessities and were credited with reducing child poverty.

That achievement should continue. We should continue as long as we can,” Casey said.

Casey has pushed in particular for billions more in funding for home and community-based services, both to enable more seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their homes, and to raise the wages for the workforce who care for them.

Pennsylvania is already getting some funding for this under the American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed last year.

Increased spending in this area “is one of the best investments we could make as a nation,” Casey said. It will both allow more people to live at home, rather than a nursing facility, and mean better wages for caregivers.

He is advocating at least $150 billion in new federal investment on top of the funding from the American Rescue Plan, Casey said.

“We can't say we have the best care in the world when we're paying workers, who are mostly low-income women of color, twelve bucks an hour. That's not going to result in the best care in the world. Those workers … should have their dignity and the dignity of their work affirmed by having an adequate wage.”

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.