With less than a month left to apply, it appears few, if any, states will be eligible for federal grant money under the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
States must have in place laws requiring certain barriers and entrapment-prevention measures on all new and existing pools and spas before requesting grant funds. The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced it was accepting applications in late March, and the deadline for submissions is May 28.
“My understanding is that no states are eligible,” said Jennifer Hatfield, who heads up government relations for the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals and the Florida Swimming Pool Association.
“From a legislative perspective, I believe the sticking point is existing pools,” she added. “How do you make a blanket requirement, and then go into someone’s backyard and verify it? So I can see where some states are eligible on new construction, but the issue is existing pools.”
Under VGB, Congress allocated $2 million for a state grant program for each of fiscal years 2009 and 2010. In February, CPSC released final guidelines for the minimum eligibility requirements states must meet to apply for the funds.
In addition to barrier laws, all public and residential pools statewide would have to be equipped with anti-entrapment systems and approved drain covers. States also are required to periodically notify residential pool and spa owners about compliance with entrapment-protection standards.
At the moment, it doesn’t appear as if any states are considering legislation that would satisfy all minimum requirements, Hatfield said.
For cash-strapped California, notification efforts would be unlikely considering the cost. Nor does the Golden State require residential pools and spas be
equipped with an approved anti-entrapment drain cover.
Instead, state law — and, for that matter, VGB — only makes such requirements of public pools, according to John Norwood, president/CEO of Sacramento-based SPEC, California’s pool and spa industry lobbying group.
Similar concerns should prevent the Northeast Spa & Pool Association’s four states from becoming grant-eligible, said Executive Director Lawrence Caniglia.
Though building codes in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania already meet the requirements for public pools outlined in VGB, none extend beyond new residential pools, Caniglia said.
“For the states to require existing pools to go back and get retrofitted to comply with VGB — the resistance would be huge,” he said. “It has to do with not wanting to hear critics say you’re putting another tax on the homeowner.”
What’s more, the admittedly small financial carrot may not be enough to compel lawmakers to take on potentially controversial legislation that might be seen as a burden to the states’ pool owners.
“What could you be talking about with a few million dollars?” Caniglia said. “You’re literally talking chump change.”