NewsPalm Beach County

Actions

Free swim lessons available. Which do you qualify for?

State vouchers will be through the Florida Department of Health for families
Posted at 1:00 AM, Apr 17, 2024

PALM BEACH COUTY, Fla. — Gov. Ron Desantis approved SB 554, which will provide low-income families in Florida with free swim lesson vouchers for their children in an effort to increase water safety in Florida.

In the meantime, parents are seeing if swimming lessons are in their budget.

Ali Sultonov, a father of three in Palm Beach Gardens, told WPTV reporter Joel Lopez the swim lessons he was looking at were charging $60 an hour, a fee he can't afford for his two youngest sons.

Ali Sultonov, a father of three in Palm Beach Gardens, said he taught his kids to swim because of the cost. April 16, 2024
Ali Sultonov, a father of three in Palm Beach Gardens, said he taught his kids to swim because of the cost.

"It's an investment yes. It is priceless. I mean you don't want to save money on that but again you want to do your budget so when it comes to your payments again you gotta consider everything," Sultonov said.

He said he has resorted to teaching his kids how to swim himself.
 
"You gotta do what you gotta do yeah? I’m not a pro but at least I can get out of the water so that’s what I can teach them," Sultonov said.

Elya Nevskaya said her 7-year-old daughter is taking swim lessons and is waiting another year for her 1-year-old to start.
 
"It's dangerous to be around the pool, and if you don't know how to swim, don't know how to get out of the pool, especially for babies," Nevskaya said. "Everything is expensive right now."

The state vouchers will be through the Florida Department of Health for families with children 4 years old or younger, with an income of no more than 200% of the federal poverty level.
 
The federal poverty level for a family of four is $31,200, according to HealthCare.gov.
 
Therefore the most a family of four can make to qualify would be $62,400.

State vouchers are expected to go into effect July 1.

Anna Stewart, the manager of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County, told Lopez the county averages 48 drownings per year.

"I would love to have zero drownings in Palm Beach County. That would be the dream," Stewart said.
 
She said the coalition offers free lessons and reduced swim programs.

Anna Stewart, the manager of the Drowning Prevention Coalition Palm Beach County, said they offer free lessons and reduced swim programs. April 16, 2024
Anna Stewart, the manager of the Drowning Prevention Coalition Palm Beach County, said they offer free lessons and reduced swim programs.

 They offer programs year-round in 18 aquatic facilities throughout the county.

According to their website, the child must be:

  • Palm Beach County resident
  • Ages 2-12
  • Non-Swimmer
  • Receive Medicaid, Fl Kid Care, Healthy Kids or parent/guardian receives food stamps or Section 8 housing.
  • A child with special needs or a foster child can also qualify as long as requirements 1-3 are met.

You can apply at its website.

They helped 1,400 families in need last year.

Stewart said she's seen more families applying for the service.

"Everybody is looking for help wherever they possibly can," Stewart said. "Living in South Florida where we're surrounded by water everybody needs to be water safe and water smart."

County facilities charge $60 for eight lessons that last half an hour, Stewart said.

The voucher program is worth $60.
 
To receive the voucher, a caregiver will be required to attend a water safety program.
 
Stewart said since the pandemic there's been a shortage of lifeguard and safety instructors but that Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation is offering free lifeguard certification courses.

"We really need those water safety instructors and lifeguards to work at the aquatic facilities to provide the swim lessons," Stewart said.
 
The YMCA of South Palm Beach County is providing free or discounted swim lessons through its "Safety Around the Water" program.
 
The USA Swimming Foundation awarded nearly $800,000 to swim programs around the country, including the YMCA of South Palm Beach County.
 
If you'd like to sign up for the "Safety Around The Water" program, click here.

Stewart said people from the Glades area have free swim lessons available for all age groups.
 
You can sign up at Pioneer Park Aquatic Center on the days of registration.