Gov. Polis Announces Action Plan to Open More Colorado Swimming and Expand Hours during Summer

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

 AURORA — Today at a public swimming pool in Aurora, Governor Polis announced action to help ensure swimming pools are open and properly staffed this summer including more workforce flexibility, new training for lifeguards, and grants to local communities. Many local governments have delayed the opening of swimming pools due to staffing shortages or cut back on hours, and the Governor wants everyone who wants to swim to be able to swim this summer.  The Governor was joined by Mayor Coffman, Council Member Coombs and members of the community and his cabinet.

“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. So 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 $1000 for successful completion of the training program and beginning employment as a lifeguard. Coloradans should be able safely enjoy time with friends and family during the hot summer months, and we’re going to get more pools open and expand hours.” said Governor Polis. 

Swimming pools, like other parts of the state’s economy, are struggling to staff up with adequate personnel. Many local governments that operate public swimming pools have delayed opening and others have reduced hours. Retention is a challenge, even at higher than usual pay rates. The Pools Special Initiative 2022  is intended to provide incentives to attract and retain public pool employees to stay through the summer and ensure adequate staffing levels that will allow pools to be open at maximum capacity.

The grant program is a partnership between 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.  

Pools provide a means of social interaction, relaxation, and stress relief that can be enjoyed by diverse groups of people. After two years of the pandemic, it is important that Coloradans have access to these facilities. Community swimming pools offer invaluable services to communities throughout Colorado,” said Rick Garcia, Executive Director of the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).


“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.”

“Community pools offer summer fun, exercise, and recreation for all ages. Keeping them open will ensure that communities across Colorado maintain this summer tradition and help balance the use of our state’s outdoor recreation amenities. Pools are an important part of the equation, and expanding hours helps place less pressure on other forms of outdoor water access,” said Conor Hall, Director of OREC.

GRANT PROGRAM DETAILS

  • 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.

Additionally, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), in collaboration with local workforce centers, will provide workforce training and support recruitment efforts through their Reskilling, Upskilling, And Next-skilling Workers (RUN) grant. This program will enable individuals to complete training to be certified as a lifeguard or receive related skills (e.g. CPR), and be paid a $1,000 stipend upon completion of the training program and beginning employment as a lifeguard. CDLE will also be issuing an emergency waiver effective immediately and applicable through September 5, 2022 to allow 16- and 17-year old lifeguards to work limited overtime hours (no more than 10 hours per day and 54 hours per week), if deemed needed by their employer, in order to increase available staffing capacity, with overtime rates.

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