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Geraldine Lang, 59, entered the Older Workers...


Geraldine Lang, 59, entered the Older Workers Program after she lost her job selling furniture in 1991, during the early days of the recession.

The program, which provides training for low-income people 55 and older, paid for her to go to school to improve her typing and learn to use a personal computer. Mrs. Lang graduated from her clerical skills courses March 5, and is now looking for a better job.

"I just feel great that I was able to get all this education," Mrs. Lang said.

But not all unemployed Carroll County seniors are as fortunate. Income requirements for such programs mean many seniors make too much money to qualify for the training and jobs.

Some positions funded by senior employment programs have gone unfilled because no workers can be found who meet the income guidelines.

Senior citizens centers in Sykesville and New Windsor are without site managers because those positions are subsidized by a senior training program called Senior Aides. Beverly Sharpsteen, manager of the South Carroll Senior Center in Sykesville, said many people have inquired about the job but none have met the income guidelines attached to it.

She said the center is in "desperate need" of a site manager, who organizes kitchen volunteers and serves as an assistant to the center manager.

"I'm doing two jobs," Ms. Sharpsteen said. "There hasn't been a site manager here for almost a year."

Lynette Brewer, who administers the Senior Aides program for the county bureau, said she knows of other senior aides vacancies in Carroll. They include the receptionist's job at a senior center and a home-help aide for a disabled resident.

"We always come up against a brick wall when we say you've got to be under this amount" for income, Ms. Brewer said. "It's not just Carroll County. This is all over the state of Maryland and across the country."

The Senior Aides program employs about 226 people statewide. To qualify for it, a person must be 55 or older and have an income of 125 percent of the poverty level or less. The current income limit for senior aides is $8,715 a year for a single person.

However, seniors who are interested in the programs should call see if they qualify, said Sue Yingling, who administers the Older Workers Program in the county. She said some programs consider factors other than income in determining eligibility.

Janette Martin, chief of the Division of Community Services and Nutrition for the Maryland Office on Aging, which runs the statewide Senior Aides program, said the income limit is set by the federal government.

The federal government provides 90 percent of the funding for the program, she said, and the state pays the rest.

Ms. Martin said it is "not the norm" for senior aides positions to remain vacant.

"It does take us time, sometimes, to recruit," she said. "Sometimes there are problems with people at 125 percent of poverty having transportation."

She said Carroll may have unfilled positions because it is "not high on the list" of counties with the highest numbers of elderly poor.

In Carroll, according to Census Bureau data, 5.2 percent of the population lives at or below 125 percent of poverty.

Statewide, 10.8 percent of the population lives below 125 percent of poverty.

Ms. Yingling said "the most frustrating thing about running the Older Workers Program" is that there are so many seniors in the county who could benefit from it but have incomes marginally too high to qualify.

"I think there are a lot of people like that," she said.

She said she can talk to these people and offer them advice. But she can't get the program to pay for training that would help them find work.

Another senior employment program, Green Thumb, is similar to Senior Aides but is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. It places seniors in subsidized positions in community-service agencies.

Natalie Kauffman, who runs the Green Thumb program in Carroll and seven other Maryland counties, said she, too, has problems filling vacancies because of the income limits. She is authorized to employ six people in Carroll County, but has only filled four positions.

Ms. Martin said she doesn't think the Clinton administration will raise the income limits in the near future. She said it seems that more attention is being given to programs for the young and middle-aged.

L "Everyone would love to have the criteria lifted," she said.

Jobs and training for seniors go unfilled, unused

Many earn too much money to qualify

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