The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has awarded five governments more than $780,000 to enforce swimming pool safety.
It’s the first time the agency has distributed funds to help municipalities enforce the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Act. VGBA, the first federal pool and spa safety law, was passed in 2007.
Local governments will use the money to ensure that residential and commercial pools comply with the law, which mandates entrapment-prevention covers and safety barriers, and established the grant fund to incentivize states and municipalities to pass pool and spa safety statutes.
To receive the funds, city and county governments submitted applications outlining how much money they needed and how they planned to use it. Not all applicants were granted funds, said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. To qualify, a jurisdiction’s pool code had to align with the VGBA.
Of the five jurisdictions, Broward County, Fla. received the most with $250,000 — the maximum individual amount. The funds will increase the number of personnel trained to identify hazards and bring pools and spas into compliance. Broward County also will educate the public about pool safety, a county spokesperson said.
Two Connecticut cities — Bridgeport and Stamford — will use part of the funds to provide free swimming instruction.
“We’re all coalescing around the effort of getting more children into learn-to-swim programs,” Wolfson said.
The other awardees were the District of Columbia and Lake County, Fla., which received $170,250 and $155,061, respectively.
“My overall goal is to reduce the number of child drownings across the country,” stated Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) in a press release. “We can get there by teaching children to swim, ensuring pools have the right safety equipment, and educating parents on the critical importance of supervising children in and near the water.”
Wasserman Schultz authored the VGBA, which was signed into law in December 2007. The legislation was named after the 7-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III — Virginia Graeme Baker — who was trapped underwater by a hot tub drain in June 2002.
It’s hard to imagine, but the CPSC initially had a hard time giving the money away.
CPSC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a combined $2 million to states to enforce VGBA in 2010. But the law was difficult to enforce at the state level and the money went untouched. The law was later simplified and the federal agencies put $1 million up for grabs, this time inviting local governments to apply.
There is still $220,000 left in the pot.
“We are planning to come up with an approach to allocate the remaining funds,” Wolfson said.
This is the first time in the agency’s 43-year history that it has issued grants of any kind.