Lifeguards remain in short supply, leaving states, cities and counties to employ incentives to attract new hires.

Local media outlets across the country continue to report of city pools having to close for the summer because of staff shortages. Since the pandemic, some cities have been able to open only a portion of their pools. Three years later, cities are taking measures not only to keep current pools open, but also reinstate some that had ceased operation since early 2020.

Some have raised their rates significantly. In Carbondale, Ill., for instance, starting pay is $18 per hour for lifeguards. That’s an increase of more than $3 per hour over last year’s rate for head lifeguards.

New Orleans has boosted its lifeguard pay to $16.72 per hour in the hopes of opening 10 of its 13 pools, compared with seven last year.

Others are employing a bonus strategy. In Massachusetts, not only are lifeguards and swim instructors able to earn $22 to $27 per hour, but they gain bonuses for signing on and staying. Lifeguards who apply by July 1 receive a $250 sign-on bonus. Those who stay until Aug. 20 receive another $500, with $250 more coming to those employed through Sept. 4.

A similar plan was implemented by City of Phoenix last year with success.

And in Colorado, Governor Jared Polis announced an initiative making available $250,000 in grant funding. Through the program, cities and counties can apply for up to $20,000 to pay for lifeguard certification and training, so applicants don’t have to.