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Summer jobs on the stimulus

Halvorson visits Saratoga Tower, County workers

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Minooka High School student Keith Latimer landed a job three weeks ago through the summer youth employment program for Grundy County youth.

“And, they might actually be offering me a job after this,” Latimer said Wednesday of his work at Saratoga Tower in Morris, which ends when school begins in the fall. “That would be great.”

Latimer, who has one credit to complete before graduating from Minooka High, is one of 17 youth working in Grundy County on money from the federal stimulus bill.

He found out about the summer job program from Case Manager Mark Leigh. The Grundy County Housing Authority, which manages Saratoga Tower,  is one of the employers in the program.

“I signed up for it, and got the job,” said Latimer. “I was surprised - very surprised. My friends wanted me to get them jobs, too. I work from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.”

He and co-worker Allen Wise of Morris showed visiting Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, D-Crete, their new composting container projects at  the residential tower.

“I wanted to be here because the stimulus bill provided money for all these guys we’ve been seeing all day on the job for the summer,” Halvorson said during her visit.

The summer job program is funded by the 2009 economic stimulus package, and coordinated by Education Service Network from its Premier Academy site in Morris.

The goal is to help the economy in the short term, and teach youth skills to help them be ready for future employment.

While at Saratoga Tower, Havorson spoke to the residents about the pending reform to Medicare Part D, which possibly could include elimination of the “donut hole” in the future.

The donut hole  is an expensive gap in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. The plan currently covers up to $2,700 per year in prescription drug payments. The coverage then stops, and restarts only when the insured’s drug costs go above $6,100 annually.

Which means the insured must pay 100 percent of all prescription drug costs between $2,700 and $6,100.

To save money, many seniors resort to taking only half of their medication, thus reducing the drugs’ effectiveness.

President Barack Obama is recommending Congress close the gap by providing a discount to those Medicare beneficiaries whose spending falls within the donut hole.

The discount would amount to at least 50 percent on prescription drugs from the negotiated price paid by their plan.

“Illinois and New Jersey are the only two states in the country than have the donut hole,” said Halvorson. “That’s when insurance stops paying, and you have to pay all your insurance costs until you hit that point where you have catastrophic action.”

Halvorson said the U.S. House is working on a bill wherein the pharmaceutical companies put up $80 million to cut prescription costs for seniors who fall in the donut hole.

“Is that enough?” she said. “No. But whatever we do, remember that we have to find a way to pay for everything we have.”

While in Morris, Halvorson also visited the University of Illinois Grundy County Extension and Step-by Step by Childcare center on Brentwood Drive. In Minooka, she led a discussion on issues and new legislation affecting the agriculture community..

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