IHRSA Implores Congress to Include Fitness Industry In Stimulus

    As the trade association fighting for the fitness industry, IHRSA has requested that Congress include health clubs, fitness centers, gyms, studios, and fitness industry suppliers in the economic stimulus package.

    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!

    March 25, 2020 Update

    Early this morning, March 25, the Senate reached a deal on a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at providing economic relief. A vote is expected to take place later this afternoon. IHRSA is looking into the full details and how health clubs can get the most out of the bill. We will continue to keep you informed as more develops.

    The entire fitness industry is looking at you for your support. Congress is rapidly putting together a stimulus package that needs to include the health and fitness industry. Help IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, gain momentum in Congress by sending a letter to your Senators and Representatives for health clubs that need relief—and don't forget to spread the word!

    U.S. health clubs and studios are vital to the economy; they serve 74 million consumers, generate $32.3 billion in annual revenue, and employ over 800,000 people. Those jobs are at risk. As a result, IHRSA is fighting to ensure the inclusion of health clubs of all types and fitness industry suppliers in any relief package.

    Industry Included in Stimulus column width

    As soon as the U.S. Congress indicated that it would be working on economic relief packages for businesses and industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, IHRSA and IHRSA Board members began working with the association’s Washington, D.C.-based lobbyists to ensure that the fitness industry would be included in a relief package.

    The first step in the process was submitting a letter to House and Senate Leadership on March 17, 2020, introducing the fitness industry’s plight to Congress. Then, on Wednesday, March 18, IHRSA staff, members of the IHRSA Board of Directors, and Industry Leadership Council members met with IHRSA’s team of lobbyists in Washington D.C. to ascertain the industry’s more specific ask.

    We have also launched a Letter Writing Campaign, which as of Friday, March 20, has already generated 33,000 letters to Congress from more than 11,000 participants. Even if you sent a letter to Congress before March 20, there’s no harm in sending another.

    To date, a total of three stimulus packages prompted by the coronavirus pandemic have been in discussion by Congress. The first, which passed immediately, was for direct funding to medical research and testing. The second was for family assistance of affected front line health employees.

    The third stimulus package will include support for first responders, local governments, and industries and small businesses impacted by business disruption from the coronavirus.

    On Friday, March 20, based on new developments in Congress, and the discussions with ILC members, Board members, and the DC lobbying team, IHRSA sent a new letter with specific asks to Congressional leadership.

    In the March 20 letter, IHRSA points out that health clubs, like restaurants, were one of the first industries mandated to close, and are bearing the economic brunt of the pandemic. IHRSA also stressed that most clubs and studios are small businesses with large numbers of employees who only receive compensation when they work, and they can only work when the club is allowed to open.

    In the letter, IHRSA President and CEO Joe Moore said, “without direct relief, these businesses will close, laying off at least 425,000 employees and up to 800,000 when independent instructors, personal trainers, and other staff are counted.”

    Our industry’s ask has four distinct requirements:

    1. Include Health Clubs, Studios, and Fitness Suppliers to Recovery Fund

    Add $32 billion to aid health clubs, studios, and their suppliers to any recovery fund that compensates restaurants and other early affected businesses.

    2. Ensure Business Interruption Insurance Covers COVID-19

    Pass regulations allowing business interruption insurance policies to cover COVID-19 through a federal guarantee.

    3. Temporary Mortgage and Lease Forbearance

    Pass regulations allowing for temporary waivers from fees over late mortgage, lease, or rent payments.

    4. Access to Zero-Interest Loans

    Access zero-interest loans to provide for capital to make payroll and sustain operations.

    In the letter, IHRSA also stressed that clubs have a deep ingraining in their communities and that it is crucial for clubs and suppliers to be up and running, providing valuable services when the world returns to normal.

    Now is not the time for America to lose one of its best preventative tools for reducing the impact of viruses and diseases such as COVID-19. It is vitally important to the health of our nation that a strong health club and fitness industry is maintained. It is for these reasons that health clubs, studios, and fitness industry suppliers must be included in any industry relief fund for lost revenue and receive mortgage and lease relief.

    Author avatar

    Meredith Poppler

    Meredith Poppler previously served as IHRSA's Vice President of Communications and Leadership Engagement—a position dedicated to growing, promoting, and protecting the industry through media, policy, and advocacy, and raising awareness and support for important policy issues.