CHICAGO (WLS) -- With a lifeguard shortage threatening Chicago's beaches and pools this summer, the Chicago Park District is offering $500 bonuses to those who fill the seasonal positions.
The park district said they are critical, life-saving jobs and the bonus reflects their respect for the lifeguards' responsibility and high demand.
"We're, we're trying to nudge the young people to complete the process to keep applying. So we're instituting intention and recruitment bonus," said Chicago Park District Superintendent Rosa Escareno.
Along with $500 bonuses to seasonal lifeguards, the park district will also offer $200 bonuses to other seasonal staff. It currently has 2,100 summer positions to fill.
"They're critical. They're super critical to everything that happened in the summer. So our lifeguards, which are hired to manage all of our beaches, about 27 beaches, and then we have about seven, we have seven schools," Escareno said.
The lifeguard shortage is not unique to the city; it is, in fact, nationwide.
"The pandemic has just been brutal. Coming out of a pandemic, it's it's a very interesting dynamic and certainly we're seeing it in other sectors and it's extending also to a shortage of lifeguards across the country," said Escareno.
Last year, under different leadership, dozens of Chicago Park District employees faced disciplinary action following the Office of Inspector General report looking into sexual harassment allegations from 2020. Escareno said since then the district has implemented sweeping changes.
"We have chased our concerns head on. We are working very, very hard to establish a reporting system," she said. "We are including the office of prevention and accountability to ensure that these complaints transferred and we are held people accountable. And we will continue to do that."
Park district leaders said they are optimistic the bonus will help secure enough lifeguards to open the beaches on Friday, May 27 and pools on June 24 as scheduled.