What the Situation in D.C. Means for Health & Fitness Clubs

    IHRSA’s Executive Vice President of Public Policy Helen Durkin shares details of what IHRSA expects to happen in Washington D.C., where the industry’s lobbying efforts are focused, and action you can take today to support efforts to get relief.

    Keeping track of what’s happening in Washington can be a lot, so allow me to help by giving you a brief update on the situation in D.C. and what it means for the fitness industry.

    Negotiations between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi broke down during the week of August 10. President Trump signed executive orders seeking to address unemployment insurance and payroll taxes.

    It is unclear what—if any—practical effect these executive orders will have. As of this writing, substantive talks around a new COVID-19 relief bill have not resumed, and senators have left Washington D.C., subject to recall to vote if a bill should come together.

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    What IHRSA Expects To Happen

    It is hard to say whether Congress will address a fourth COVID-19 relief bill prior to the November election. It is difficult to envision Congress heading into the November election without having taken some additional action, but we cannot rule out that possibility.

    If a COVID-19 relief bill is to be put together prior to the election, the timeline for this happening appears to have shifted to September as the most likely time, and perhaps the last real chance at seeing a bill come together.

    What IHRSA Is Doing

    While it is enormously frustrating to see the broader national political dynamics get in the way of Congress addressing the numerous challenges confronting our nation, it does not considerably alter our short-term lobbying efforts.

    We must proceed with our lobbying efforts—and we are. Until we have reason to do otherwise, we will operate under the assumption that there will be a relief bill in September. Therefore, we must do all we can to ensure we are well-positioned in that event.

    4 Areas Where IHRSA Is Focusing

    1. PR and Media Coverage

    We continue to push our message to Washington D.C. media, sharing the latest research and information on how the fitness industry is hurting. In addition, we are expanding our outreach to include coverage in districts of key Senate members.

    If you have relationships with any media in these regions with Senate leaders or with those senators, email us. These relationships could be pivotal in our lobbying efforts.

    Our PR messaging to both D.C. and consumer media is picking up steam, but we need your help in getting our messaging out to more media.

    2. Direct Lobbying Outreach to Key Congressional Committee Members

    In addition to the 36 grassroots campaigns across the U.S. that we’ve launched since the start of this pandemic, my staff is reaching out to key congressional committee members. We spent many hours in meetings, calling offices, sending letters, and emailing with elected officials’ staffers.

    Right now, there are three committees we are focusing our communications on:

    1. Small Business Committee (Senate and House)
    2. Senate Finance Committee
    3. House Ways & Means Committee

    If your senators or congressperson is a member of these committees, your outreach efforts could be especially helpful.

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    3. Boosting Support for the RESTART Loan Act

    Right now, we are doing everything we can to recruit co-sponsors and promote this measure’s inclusion in the next relief bill.

    Last week, IHRSA and our allies fighting for the RESTART Act committed to double—or triple—the amount of signatures on a CEO letter supporting the bill. The letter currently has hundreds of CEO signatures and we acted to add small, mid-sized, and large business CEOs from across the country.

    Clubs had until 5 p.m. EDT on Monday, August 17, to add their name and business to the supporter list through a sign-on form on HelpSmallBusinessesNow.com.

    A Brief Summary of the RESTART Loan Act

    The RESTART Act would create a 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 economic challenges.

    The bill includes a new loan program to provide funding to cover six months of payroll, benefits, and fixed operating expenses for businesses that have taken a substantial revenue hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    A share of the loan will be forgiven based on the revenue losses suffered by the business in 2020 with the remainder being repaid over seven years. No interest payments are due in the first year, and no principal payments are due for the first two years.

    At its core, this program is designed to provide small- and medium-sized businesses with liquidity to get their businesses up and running again and ensure that they receive loan forgiveness to help fill the gap caused by revenue declines.

    4. Other Bills We’re Advocating For

    While we do not anticipate a prospective relief bill in September to include either the PHIT Act or a business interruption insurance fix—like Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney’s bill—we continue to support both of these measures for potential inclusion in an end-of-year package.

    There are three things you can do right now to help further the industry’s lobbying efforts:

    1. You can participate in one of our active grassroots campaigns,
    2. You can share the campaigns with your members and ask them to support your club, and
    3. You can contribute to IHRSA’s lobbying efforts.

    Participating in grassroots efforts shows lawmakers what is important to their constituents. From calling their office to sending a letter, every communication matters!

    Your members care about your club and want to take an active role in helping to save the community it represents. When Michigan clubs shared the campaign asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to reopen health clubs with their members, more than 6,000 gym-goers participated.

    Finally, accomplishing the fitness industry's goals in every state and at the federal level—now and for the future—takes resources. 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.

    When you contribute to IHRSA’s lobbying efforts, you’re helping build the strong advocacy arm our industry so desperately needs. Contribute to these efforts online, download the ILC brochure, or learn more by contacting Meredith Poppler at mpoppler@ihrsa.org or 617-316-6750.

    Author avatar

    Helen Durkin

    Helen Durkin, JD, previously served as IHRSA's Executive Vice President of Public Policy—a position that served as a champion for the industry and advocate for physical activity, primary prevention, and public policies that promote wellness.