Despite lifeguard shortage, RI DEM says all state beaches will open this weekend

Local News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) tells 12 News they are coming up short in the lifeguard department this summer.

Tom Rosa, administrative officer at DEM’s Division of Parks and Recreation, said they currently have more than 100 lifeguard slots, but not all of those positions are staffed.

Rosa believes the pandemic played a role.

“Currently we have 153 positions that are spread out throughout Rhode Island and currently 119 positions filled,” Rosa said. “A lot of lifeguards haven’t been able to get their Red Cross or YMCA certifications because pools have been closed.”

He also said the additional $300 in emergency unemployment benefits could be limiting their application pool.

“Individuals that are collecting unemployment, which are a lot of our seasonal employees, are now eligible to collect an extra $300, which is very good for them, but it puts employers, not just us, in a tough spot,” he said. “We can’t compete with an extra $300.”

Rosa said every state beach will open despite the shortage, but swimming areas might be smaller to ensure they have adequate safety coverage.

“Every beach will have a lifeguard, but we will just shrink the size of the protected swimming area and make sure the public knows to stay inside that area,” Rosa said.

In an effort to attract more lifeguards, the City of Newport said they will be paying lifeguards $20 an hour and will cover the cost of their surf certifications this summer.

All state beaches officially open on Saturday.

Anyone interested in applying to be a lifeguard is urged to apply online or call (401) 667-6200 for more information.

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