Concerned about rising drowning rates, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has made swimming safety a priority in her state budget, proposing a $160 million investment. The funds will be utilized to build new pools, hire lifeguards, and increase swim lessons, addressing the underinvestment and limited access to swim safety in New York communities.
Governor Hochul highlighted the alarming increase in drownings, with over 230 lives lost in 2021 alone. Emphasizing the disproportionate risk faced by Black and brown communities due to decades of disinvestment in swimming facilities and affordable swim lessons, Hochul sees this investment as a step to rectify the situation.
Lawmakers, sharing concerns about drowning rates, expressed support for the Governor’s budget plans. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie emphasized the importance of teaching basic survival swimming skills to children.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal drownings are the leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 4 and the second leading cause for those aged 5 to 14. The proposed investment aims to raise awareness about drowning prevention and potentially decrease drownings for both children and adults.
Drowning prevention advocates, including Heidi Reiss, Co-Owner of Aqua Beba Swim and executive member of the New York Water Safety Coalition, welcomed the initiative. They believe that increasing the number of lifeguards, providing education, and ensuring safe access to water are crucial steps in reducing the incidence of drowning.