Governor announces plan to help staff Colorado swimming pools amid lifeguard shortage
DENVER (KKTV) - Gov. Jared Polis has announced a plan to ensure Coloradans get plenty of pool time this summer amid a national lifeguard shortage.
Across the country and in Colorado, the shortage has forced public pools to delay opening or cut hours as they grapple with a lack of staff.
“Spending time at a local public pool is a fun and healthy way to enjoy our beautiful Colorado summers. But across the state we need to fix the shortage of lifeguards and pool workers to open closed pools and expand operating hours as we head into July 4th weekend and the heat of summer,” the governor said Tuesday in announcing the Pools Special Initiative 2022.
Among the steps Polis says the state is taking to address the shortage: workforce flexibility, new training for lifeguards, and grants to local communities.
“We are providing much-needed assistance to expand hours at Colorado’s public pools by supporting increased pay, allowing 16-17 year old lifeguards to work more overtime if they want, and helping train more lifeguards to address the shortage by offering $1,000 for successful completion of the training program and beginning employment as a lifeguard,” Polis said.
This will all be funded by a grant program co-funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC). DOLA will provide $250,000 and OREC will provide $100,000 to support this program. The state has provided the following information on how the grant program will work and how communities can take advantage:
- Grant Objective: Provide funding to attract and retain public pool employees to incentivize them to stay through the summer and to ensure adequate staffing levels that will allow pools to be open at maximum capacity.
- Eligible Recipients: Local governments (cities, counties, and special districts) that operate an indoor and/or outdoor public swimming pool that are experiencing negative impacts to workforce recruitment and retention this summer season.
- Program Funding: There is $350,000 in available funding for this program. While no local match is required, local governments are encouraged to utilize federal stimulus funds to match this grant opportunity.
- Grant Design: DOLA will solicit applications for communities experiencing acute workforce challenges where additional funds could support their efforts. They will then review and make grant awards to eligible grantees, providing funds during the summer to support staffing wages and related initiatives.
- Awards will be for a maximum of $25,000 for the local government to use to mitigate their priority challenges to address local needs as needed.
- No cash match will be required, but encouraged.
- Grants to local governments will be provided for critical activities including retention, recruitment, training, overtime wages and/or retention bonuses.
- Timeline: Grant availability via the DOLA Grants Portal will open on Tuesday, June 21 and remain open through Tuesday, June 28 at midnight with awards made on Friday July 1st. Award funds will be provided quickly to communities so that they can take action immediately this summer when the need for public pool workforce support is essential. The Pools Special Initiative 2022 is expected to end September 30, 2022.
- Application: Applications for grants are made through DOLA’s Division of Local Government’s Online Grants Portal, which is available through the Notice of Financial Availability (NOFA) on the DOLA website. The application window is expedited to facilitate funding during the critical summer pool season and provide the highest possible economic impact for local governments.
- At the closeout of the grant, local governments will be expected to report on the successful uses and lessons learned during the funding period.
“Spending the summer as a lifeguard is a great opportunity for teens to gain skills that will launch their journey into the workforce,” said Joe Barela, executive director of Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “We’re excited to be a part of this multi-agency effort to get more public pools open for longer hours all while creating valuable job opportunities for teens eager to start fun summer jobs. The Reskilling, Upskilling, and Next-skilling Workers (RUN) grant sweetens the deal by allowing teens to earn money while they complete the necessary training and secure the certifications needed to be a lifeguard at our pools. Interested teens and their parents should visit their local workforce center or cdle.colorado.gov/jobs-training to get support signing up.”
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