Florida bill focused on providing free swimming lessons to children moves forward

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida bill that would provide free swimming lessons to children from low-income families is quickly moving through the state legislature.

Senate Bill 544, also known as the “Swimming Lesson Voucher Program,” was filed on Nov. 20, 2023, aiming to increase water safety in the Sunshine State.

The program was introduced by District 7 Republican Senator Travis Houston and has been moving quickly with bipartisan support. If approved, the bill would take effect on July 1, 2024.

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According to the bill, the program will offer vouchers free of charge to families with an income of no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level who have one or more children age 4 or younger.

The Department of Health would then need to contact vendors that will accept the vouchers in exchange for swimming lessons.

SB 544 also states that any vendor that offers swimming lessons at a public pool that is owned or maintained by a county or municipality must participate in the program if requested by the department.

Two other bills aimed at preventing childhood drownings moving through the state legislature: Senate Bill 274 and Senate Bill 706.

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SB 274 would require children aged 12 or younger in summer camps and school trips to wear flotation devices if they don’t know how to swim. Meanwhile, SB 706 would require Florida homeowners to add at least one safety barrier to their before selling their homes.

According to the Child Fatality Prevention website, there have been 88 child drownings in Florida so far this year.

The CDC reported that more children ages 1 to 4 died from drowning than any other cause of death. It’s also the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 5 to 14, behind vehicle crashes.

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