Stimulus Bill Snubs Fitness Industry, Fight for Relief Persists

    Lobbying efforts and support must continue for the U.S. fitness industry to stand a chance to receive direct financial relief.

    The latest stimulus package did not include economic relief for the health and fitness industry. It is crucial we keep an eye on everything that’s going on in Washington, D.C., and continue to push forward with all lobbying efforts.

    Let’s start with a recap of the United We Rise - Stronger Than Ever industry action event.

    Highlights from the United We Rise - Stronger Than Ever Event

    Ahead of the Senate vote on Thursday, March 4, fitness industry leaders and leading industry organizations representing almost every sector of the industry gathered at the first-ever industry action event: United We Rise - Stronger Than Ever. The event covered uniting the industry through advocacy and the dire need for support.

    The event was a historical moment for the health and fitness industry, as it is the first time the collective industry gathered to unite its shared interests and advocate collaboratively. In total, an excess of 400 health and fitness-related professionals registered for the event and primarily discussed advocacy efforts, relief, and recovery for the industry.

    In a video message, GYMS Act champion, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), said, “I appreciate all of you who have helped bring support to the legislation, and this is not the end of the road ... I will continue to do what I can to push for this financial support until your facilities receive the assistance they need."

    During the event, Brent Darden, IHRSA interim CEO and president, said, “Congressman Fitzpatrick also mentioned when he was talking to all of us that it's also about the economic impact of the worsening health of Americans and the economic costs associated with that, and we are certainly part of that solution. ... In the big picture, this bailout is going to have ramifications going forward.”

    Quigley also addressed the economic and health implications for Americans. He said, “As you all know, if [health and fitness businesses do not receive direct assistance], it will be a disaster for the loss of small business and the loss of local jobs. And it will be a disaster for the communities and individuals who rely on your gyms to help them stay healthy.”

    What the Latest Stimulus Bill Means For Gyms

    After more than 24 hours of debating, on Saturday, March 6, the Senate voted to pass President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief package—worth $1.9 trillion. With full support from Senate Democrats, the 50-49 final vote was barely enough to move the bill back to the House to approve the Senate’s changes before Biden can sign the legislation.

    The bill’s provisions include:

    • A $1,400 stimulus check for most Americans earning up to $75,000, and $2,800 for families making under $150,000.
    • The extension of a $300 weekly federal boost to unemployment benefits through August.
    • Sending $350 billion to state and local governments whose revenue declined due to COVID-19's economic impact.
    • $130 billion to assist in fully reopening schools and colleges.
    • $30 billion to lessen the financial losses of renters and landlords.
    • $50 billion for small-business assistance.
    • $160 billion for vaccine development, distribution, and related needs.
    • Expansion of the child tax credit to up to $3,600 per child.

    Unfortunately—but with no surprise—the GYMS Act (H.R. 890) was left out of the relief package.

    Stimulus Bill Snubs Fitness Industry Column Width Listing Image

    On Wednesday, March 10, the House passed the American Rescue Plan Act, as amended by the Senate, by a vote of 220-211. The bill now goes to President Biden’s desk where he plans to sign it into law on Friday.

    During the pandemic, the health and fitness industry has been a victim of bad press. Congress’ failure to advance this legislation underlines the need to educate and converse with lawmakers and public health officials to establish a deeper connection to the health and fitness industry and public health.

    One reason direct assistance for the industry was also not included is that we need to build more support through outreach. The GYMS Act has a long way to go, but it is possible to gain more momentum with unified efforts. As of posting, the GYMS Act has 53 co-sponsors from 15,000 grassroots emails sent and 500 personal emails and calls.

    How do we build support for the fitness industry?

    Although Congress did not include the GYMS Act in this relief package, there is hope for financial assistance.

    Quigley said, “There are already talks of other stimulus packages, and we mustn’t let up the pressure now. We need your continued support to amplify the need and importance of the GYMS Act for your businesses. The federal government needs to provide assistance to your businesses which are hurting through no fault of your own.”

    The ultimate goal is to gain relief for health and fitness clubs and the 1.4 million fitness professionals who are currently out of work because of the pandemic. It’s pertinent to gain Congress’ attention through outreach and increase the number of co-sponsors from 53 to ideally 150 or 200.

    “I will continue to do what I can to push for this financial support until your facilities receive the assistance they need.”

    GYMS Act co-sponsor Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL)

    To continue the rally for relief, it is now more important than ever to follow through with the following action items:

    1. Participate in the 1-click campaign.
    2. Share the campaign with your network, employees, members, and customers.
    3. Visit the Dashboard to track the GYMS Act’s progress.

    IHRSA and the National Health & Fitness Alliance’s (NHFA) lobbying efforts persist with uniting the industry by providing advocacy materials and assistance, shaping the industry’s public image, and gathering and sharing essential research.

    We are also planning another industry action event to cover public relations and change the current narrative surrounding health and fitness clubs. IHRSA will soon release more details.

    Author avatar

    Sami Smith

    Sami Smith is IHRSA's Communications and Public Relations Assistant. On a typical day, she delivers communications and creates content for IHRSA's advocacy efforts, while working to shape IHRSA and the fitness industry's public image on multiple platforms. Outside of the office, you can find her traveling to new areas, indulging in food, or participating in just about any sport.