Cities Turn to Bonuses to Help Fill Lifeguard Positions

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As summer approaches, many cities are turning to bonus incentives to help fill lifeguard positions and keep swimmers safe at public pools. 

According to the American Lifeguard Association, about a third of the more than 309,000 public pools in the United States are affected by the current lifeguard shortage. That number doesn't include beaches, water parks and other venues. 

The COVID 19 pandemic fueled the current shortage, as it prevented lifeguards from being recertified, which is required every two years. 

Adam Katchmarchi, executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, told Axios what scares him is some facilities will choose to operate when they don’t have enough safety staff, which will put their patrons more at risk.

“One of the biggest risks is we’re losing some of our safer swimming environments for families over the summer,” Katchmarchi said.

According to Axios, the following cities have enacted the following hiring bonuses to help incentivize lifeguards: 

  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently announced a new lifeguard training program that allocates more than $250,000 in grants to local governments to boost staffing at public pools. Each city is eligible for up to $20,000, Alayna Alvarez reports for Axios Denver.
  • A lifeguard hiring spree in Indianapolis, Indiana with $500 signing bonuses, has brought the lifeguards on staff to 170, up from 81 a year ago, Axios’ James Briggs reports.
  • Philadelphia’s lifeguard bonuses will be distributed at the end of the summer and the city also is offering college credit to Temple University students who become certified and work as city lifeguards.
  • The city of Phoenix says it is providing $3,000 in incentive pay with $500 on the first paycheck and the remaining $2,500 as a one-time payment at the end of the 2023 pool season.
  • In Texas, Austin Parks and Recreation Department officials have beefed up the pay structure for lifeguards, who can earn a minimum of $20 an hour in addition to bonus payouts.
  • George Gorman Jr., regional director of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, told Axios that Gov. Kathy Hochul increasing the pay for lifeguards is expected to help dramatically.

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