What IHRSA Has Been Lobbying for During the Economic Crisis

    It can be hard to keep track of everything happening in Washington D.C. as the coronavirus crisis upends Capitol Hill. We’ve highlighted all that IHRSA has been doing federally on your behalf in the last month.

    It has been a wild and tumultuous month. The novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, putting people’s health at risk and bringing much of the global economy to a halt. Every business in the health and fitness industry has been interrupted in one way or another. With little indication of when the pandemic may end, we must adapt and innovate. Challenging times serve as a reminder of what is most important, and what is most important to us at IHRSA is you, our members.

    We have compiled a timeline to show how IHRSA has been working to protect and support you and this industry we all love. Please know that we will continue fighting for the entire industry for as long as this crisis continues.

    Because there is so much happening daily during this crisis—and it can be hard to keep up—we’ve laid out our actions taken within the last month by week.

    IHRSA COVID Response Timeline Week1

    Week of March 16

    The week of March 16, state governments began putting more restrictions on public gatherings and mandating the closures of health clubs. IHRSA worked to update our members constantly with resources, webinars, and information about every government restriction to business as usual.

    As it became clear that Congress planned to pass an economic relief package, IHRSA immediately held an emergency call with our board members, our D.C.-based lobbyists, and key industry stakeholders to finalize our strategy. IHRSA then sent a letter to Congress demanding the inclusion of the health and fitness industry in any federal relief bill. We also launched a campaign asking fitness industry professionals to write to their Congressperson asking them to include the industry in any federal relief bill. IHRSA began sending near-daily updates via the Coronavirus Alert email.

    We released an article on our website, making the case to include the industry in the stimulus package, and began daily social messaging to inform and activate members around our campaigns for stimulus relief. We also launched a campaign aimed at gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts to engage consumers in our lobbying.

    On March 20, IHRSA sent a new letter to Congress requesting the following types of specific relief for the industry:

    • Include Health Clubs, Studios, and Fitness Suppliers in 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.
    • Ensure Business Interruption Insurance Covers COVID-19: Pass regulations that allow the coverage of COVID-19 under existing business interruption insurance policies through a federal guarantee.
    • Temporary Mortgage and Lease Forbearance: Pass regulations that allow for temporary waivers from fees over any late mortgage, lease, or rent payments.
    • Access to Zero-Interest Loans: Access zero-interest loans to make payroll and sustain operations.

    We simultaneously pivoted all the grassroots campaigns and social media to the new message and request.

    IHRSA COVID Response Timeline Week2

    Week of March 23

    IHRSA continued to advocate for our industry, and track the many state-mandated gym closures around the country. We continued to update these frequently, along with potential sources of non-federal economic relief. During this time, 38,944 people in the fitness business took 118,400 actions on the industry campaign, and another 2,699 consumers took 7,945 actions on the non-industry professional campaign.

    On March 27, the Senate reached a deal on a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at providing economic relief. While the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) included several provisions that provided aid to health clubs, we quickly identified a gap, where mid-sized clubs were receiving little assistance. The way the Small Business Administration (SBA) counts employees made it challenging for these mid-sized clubs to qualify for the SBA loan program.

    We updated the article on our website, our Action Center homepage, and campaign landing pages mentioning the deal and that we are looking into what will be the next phase of the campaign.

    IHRSA COVID Response Timeline Week3

    Weeks of March 30 and April 6

    On April 1, IHRSA organized a call for mid-sized club operators who could not qualify for the SBA loan program. We sent a letter to the SBA requesting a waiver of affiliation rule, allowing all clubs to participate in the SBA loan program. We simultaneously launched a call-in campaign, in which affected club owners could reach out directly to their members of Congress to request they support a fix to the SBA loan eligibility issue.

    Based on the numerous industries that are currently lobbying the federal legislature—all for a slice from the same pie of relief—and our commitment to the industry, IHRSA chose to strengthen our position in D.C. We decided to add two additional lobbyist firms and increase the scope of our existing lobbyist. These lobbyists will give the fitness industry a higher profile in Washington, D.C. More lobbyists, with connections on both sides of the aisle, will increase IHRSA’s strength in its efforts to advocate for the industry. In particular, we’re looking to expand the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) eligibility, business interruption insurance, potential rent/lease relief, and a 9/11-style Business and Employee Continuity Recovery Fund.

    IHRSA, in concert with our D.C. lobbyists, worked with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick’s office to spearhead a Congressional sign-on letter to the SBA requesting expansion of the SBA loan program to cover the affected mid-sized clubs. Members of Congress would sign the letter. We then launched a grassroots campaign to our full membership to contact Congress and request a fix to the SBA eligibility issue. On April 7, IHRSA held a call with industry leaders announcing the decision to add new lobbyists to support the push for a fix to the SBA eligibility issue and to give the industry a stronger voice in lobbying for relief in future stimulus packages.

    IHRSA COVID Response Timeline Week4

    Week of April 13 and BEYOND

    With a deeper bench of lobbying power in Washington, D.C., IHRSA is turning its attention to the next stimulus bill. We are hearing from members that their priorities are:

    1. Business interruption insurance or an economic disaster fund
    2. Commercial lease/rent relief
    3. Expand SBA loan eligibility

    IHRSA is also working with our members to bring focus to the specific losses felt by our industry in the wake of mandatory business closures in more than 45 states. For example, this opinion editorial for MarketWatch, written by three industry leaders, highlights our unique need for industry-specific relief. IHRSA will continue to fight for the fitness industry throughout this crisis. Stay tuned for new opportunities to advocate for the industry!

    Author avatar

    Jeff Perkins @JeffD_Perkins

    Jeff Perkins is the Assistant Vice President of Government Relations for IHRSA. He's responsible for monitoring and influencing legislation at the state and federal level to protect club business models and operations, and help promote the health benefits of exercise. Jeff enjoys running, soccer, ice hockey, and ice cream, not in that order.