Polis announces grants to help pools hire more workers, raise pay through the summer

Swimming Pool Mestizo Curtis Park Closed
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The swimming pool at Mestizo Curtis Park in Denver sits empty, May 22, 2020.

In response to community pool closures caused by staff shortages, Colorado is offering grant money to help local governments hire pool employees for the summer. 

Several community pools across the state, particularly in the Denver metro, have either had to stay closed or drastically reduce hours in response to a lifeguard shortage.  

Governor Jared Polis announced the grant Tuesday at a public swimming pool in Aurora. 

“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,” Polis said in a statement. 

The state has made $350,000 available to eligible applicants, provided by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.

Eligible parties include county governments, municipalities and special districts that are experiencing difficulties operating outdoor or indoor public swimming pools. Each applicant can request up to $25,000 dollars. 

The money can be used for any expense related to attracting and retaining pool employees. That means workers could receive pay raises, overtime benefits or signing bonuses.

In addition, the state is granting an emergency waiver allowing minors to work overtime at pools, if they choose to do so. Polis and other leaders said the grant provides a great opportunity for teenagers to get work experience. 

“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.

Grant applications are open until June 28. The state said the funding program is a one-time window.