With the Fourth of July weekend days away, the state awarded over $800,000 to dozens of swimming pools to help the pools open amid an ongoing shortage of lifeguards.
Gov. Jared Polis announced Thursday that Colorado gave $849,313 in grants to 71 local swimming pools from Denver to Cañon City to Grand Junction, as pools across the state have postponed opening and shortened hours of operation because they lack necessary staff.
“We are helping expand pool hours and get closed pools open so that this July 4th and throughout the summer, Coloradans across the state can safely have fun with family and friends, learn to swim, exercise and recreate at our amazing public pools,” Polis said. “We are working with local communities to get more pools open and expand hours with support for increased pay, more work flexibility, and helping train more lifeguards."
The grants are part of the "Pools Special Initiative 2022” launched last week, comprised of several initiatives to help attract and retain lifeguards in Colorado.
The National Lifeguard Association in May called the lifeguard shortage a “crisis,” with as many as half of the country’s 309,000 pools either shuttering or adjusting swim times. Colorado’s Front Range was hit particularly hard, with cities such as Denver, Aurora, Boulder, Longmont and Englewood reportedly scrambling to find lifeguards and pushing pool openings into June.
The grant program offered local governments up to $25,000 per recipient to pay for staff wages, training and recruitment or retainment efforts.
Though the application period for the grant program closed Tuesday, other efforts are still in effect, such as a $1,000 cash incentive for people who train as lifeguards and emergency waivers to allow 16- and 17-year-old lifeguards to work overtime through Sept. 5.
The $1,000 training incentive will be available through September for anyone who completes training to be a certified lifeguard and for CPR and first aid certifications. To receive the stipend, trainees must also show proof that they are beginning employment as a lifeguard. Local workforce centers will facilitate the training and stipends.