America’s health and fitness clubs, which were reportedly flourishing before the COVID-19 shutdown, were one of the first businesses mandated to close. With near-total closures, no real opportunities to earn revenue since mid-March and severely restricted operations for the foreseeable future, the hard-hit fitness industry requires federal relief.

As the voice for the health club industry in Washington D.C., IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, has continuously been sounding the alarm on the dire consequences the industry is facing since the early days of the pandemic, even before Congress took up what became the CARES Act (“Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security” Act).

IHRSA is asking Congress for federal relief for the fitness industry so that fitness clubs and gyms across the country may continue to provide safe, secure, proven places to achieve health and fitness goals for their communities.

When the CARES Act passed in March, it provided possible assistance to many clubs through the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). However, the program failed to include all fitness industry segments and did not help even eligible club operators who could not take advantage of loans while their businesses remained closed.

Upon realization that the CARES Act did not grant the industry the relief needed, IHRSA and industry leaders began a fundraising campaign to increase the industry’s presence and voice in Washington D.C.

When asked why he supported IHRSA’s increased lobbying efforts, Kevin Johnson, CEO and owner of Team85 Fitness & Wellness in Bordentown, NJ, said, “We need to make sure that the economy of the health and wellness industry can rebound. We need the support of our government to protect our employees, and the actions put in place thus far are not enough.” He added, “Without Congressional support, one of the most important industries in this world will wither away to nothing.”

Now that Congress is again looking at what they can, and should do, to save the U.S. economy, IHRSA is proposing three categories of assistance from Congress: relief, protection and stimulus.

Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy, said, “We are implementing a comprehensive approach to save health and fitness businesses in America. This approach is broad enough to cover all possible opportunities, while also specific enough to get immediate relief, protection as we reopen, and stimulus to propel the industry—and the health of the country—forward.”

IHRSA’s three asks of Congress are to provide the industry:

  • Immediate financial relief to keep clubs from closing;
  • Protection from future pandemics, lawsuits and government closures; and
  • A stimulus to revitalize the industry and America’s health, such as passing the PHIT Act (H.R.1679/S.680), which would allow pre-tax savings accounts (HSAs and FSAs) to pay for fitness, sports leagues and healthy living.

IHRSA said in a release its team and the association’s Washington D.C., lobbyists are doing all they can to achieve the above goals. But, lobbying alone isn’t always enough. Health club operators and their staff as tax-paying, voting constituents, contribute a critical voice. If every fitness industry employee wrote letters to their Senators and Members of Congress, the industry’s voice and position would be more powerful.

IHRSA believes this online campaign provides a fast, easy way for everyone in the country to tell members of Congress how important their business is to their communities and ask for immediate and lasting relief.

Photo courtesy Team85 Fitness & Wellness, Bordentown, NJ