IHRSA Ramps Up Fight for Fitness Industry at Federal Level

America’s fitness industry is one of the hardest hit by the forced closures mandated by the coronavirus crisis. To ensure the inclusion of every health and fitness club in relief efforts, IHRSA and industry leaders are ramping up federal lobbying.

June 2020 Update: Since publishing this article, IHRSA launched a new grassroots campaign asking Congress for further relief and stimulus to include:

  • An improved SBA PPP that expands access to the program for all of the industry's clubs
  • The RESTART Loan Program to provide funding to jump-start the hardest-hit businesses for the remainder of 2020, and provide loan forgiveness as a backstop against ongoing difficulties.
  • The PHIT Act to allow the use of pre-tax savings accounts (FSA and HSA) to pay for health club memberships, fitness equipment, exercise videos, and youth sports leagues. Passing PHIT would encourage people to return to the clubs when reopened.

The Senate is expected to develop the next package of relief efforts in June. IHRSA—as the sole representative for the fitness industry in Washington, D.C.—and our ILC-funded lobbyists will continue efforts to include the health and fitness industry in relief legislation. To support these efforts, tell the Senate health clubs still need relief—then share the campaign with every fitness professional, you know!

Health and fitness clubs across the U.S. are among the businesses most devastated by the coronavirus crisis. As soon as states began forcing health clubs to shut their doors, IHRSA started pursuing efforts to keep clubs protected.

Now that Congress is discussing additional relief for America’s small businesses, IHRSA has bulked up its lobbying power and presence in Washington D.C. by tripling its federal lobbying presence, assembling a team of proven lobbyists with strength in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, IHRSA will only be successful in saving the fitness industry with the support of the entire industry—we need you to act now.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the largest stimulus relief package in U.S. history, helps a good part of the fitness industry. Despite IHRSA’s efforts, a large segment of health and fitness club operators—representing thousands of clubs—was unintentionally left out in the cold.

Increasing Lobbying Firepower

To ensure that the entire fitness industry—all 40,000 clubs, their suppliers, and their employees—receives relief, the industry must bring more resources to bear on the federal government.

The need for a more robust, politically powerful fitness industry has never been more significant!

On an April 8 call with industry leadership, Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public affairs, announced that the association is immediately retaining multiple Washington D.C. lobbyists. Each lobbyist will become part of a cohesive lobbying team with strength in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, reaching both Democrats and Republicans.

The lobbyist firms include:

  • Van Scoyoc Associates (IHRSA's existing lobbyist, increasing their scope)
  • McGuireWoods Consulting (new)
  • Capitol Hill Policy Group (new)

Additional assistance is under consideration and will be employed if needed.

With the new lobbyists in place, the fitness industry will have a higher profile in Washington D.C. More lobbyists, with their connections on both sides of the aisle, will increase IHRSA’s strength in its efforts to advocate for the industry. While IHRSA is exploring all avenues of industry relief, the issues below are the most immediate:

  • Expand eligibility for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
  • Business interruption insurance
  • Lease/rent relief
  • A 9/11-style Business and Employee Continuity Recovery Fund

Urgent Need Leads to New Fundraising Campaign

It takes resources to create a potent fitness industry that accomplishes the industry’s goals in every state at the federal level, now and for the future. Even in good times, a unified association with a strong advocacy arm is necessary to track, confront, and overcome threats, jump on opportunities, and deliver results.

Now, more than ever, that strong advocacy arm is needed. And it needs your support!

IHRSA Ramps Up Fight for Federal Column Width

Due to the immediate requirement to retain additional lobbyists, IHRSA and the Industry Leadership Council (ILC) launched a special fundraising campaign that goes over and above the annual ILC efforts. This campaign will generate funds to retain the new lobbyists and maintain the increased Washington D.C. presence the industry requires. We are asking fitness businesses across the country to invest in this fundraising effort as soon as possible.

As of April 14, club companies large and small have contributed over $300,000, 100% of which will go directly to industry relief efforts.

To contribute and/or learn more about these efforts, please contact Meredith Poppler at mpoppler@ihrsa.org or 617-316-6750.

About IHRSA Advocacy & the Industry Leadership Council

As the industry’s trade association, protecting club operations is what we do, it’s why we exist. IHRSA has been protecting clubs from legislative and regulatory burdens, while also promoting the industry's vital contributions to the health of the nation since the association’s early years.

Twenty years ago, the industry’s leaders formed the Industry Leadership Council (ILC) as a way to work together for a better and stronger industry by raising money for lobbyists. ILC contributions enable IHRSA to fulfill its role as the industry’s sole protector and advocate in Washington D.C. and all 50 states.

ILC members:

  • represent tens of thousands of clubs across the U.S. and Canada, as well as individuals and industry suppliers,
  • actively work toward the common goal of a healthier, stronger, more prosperous nation,
  • value being part of something greater than their immediate business.

Links to IHRSA’s Coronavirus Advocacy Resources

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Author avatar

Meredith Poppler @PopplerMeredith

As IHRSA's Vice President of Communications and Leadership Engagement, Meredith works to grow, promote, and protect the global fitness industry through media, policy, and advocacy. Meredith seeks to raise awareness of and funding for important policy issues affecting the fitness industry, while encouraging leadership, engagement and collaboration. When not protecting or promoting the fitness industry, she is either playing tennis or trying to get her stubborn 5-year-old English Bulldog to take a walk.