Gym owners need help. Congress must provide relief or fitness industry won't make it: Community Gyms Coalition

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As Congress continues to negotiate federal relief legislation and decide on how much money will be included in the next stimulus bill, the fitness industry must remain top-of-mind.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly hurt every major industry across the country, but local gyms and fitness facilities have been particularly devastated, with thousands of gyms at risk of imminent closure.

Deb Strougo, founder of RowHouse in NYC

According to Yelp, gyms and fitness facilities in the United States face higher closure rates than other industries that have been struggling because of the pandemic, like restaurants and bars.

Based on its respective size, the gym industry has a closure rate nearly five times that of the restaurant industry and one-third higher than the bar and nightclub industry.

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This is why it is so important that Congress moves quickly to provide direct relief to gym owners.

Thankfully, last week, leaders in Washington like Sens. Mitt Romney, Bill Cassidy, Mark Warner, and Joe Manchin, among others in the House Problem Solvers Caucus, were able to put their political differences aside and work together to propose bipartisan relief legislation with realistic odds of passing.

Jordan Holland, owner and operator of Riot Athletics in Seattle.

While this is a welcomed and necessary first step, Congress must prioritize specific relief for the fitness industry — which plays a critical role in keeping Americans healthy — during bill negotiations.

In nearly every state throughout the country, gyms were the first businesses that were forced to shut down by the government and were one of the last to reopen.

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Today, many gyms are still closed and see little-to-no hope of reopening any time soon or recovering from the economic losses seen this year without government help.

In fact, a new survey found that nearly four in ten local gyms do not expect to survive through 2021 unless they receive direct, federal relief from Congress.

This survey also found that a direct grant program to recoup 2019 losses would increase the survival rate of gyms to 88% and would help more than 10,000 local fitness facilities stay in business. These numbers alone should be reason enough for Congress to provide the fitness industry with assistance.

Earlier in the year, many gym owners were fortunate to receive government aid in the form of PPP loans. These loans were useful, but there were notable flaws regarding how the funds from these PPP loans could be used by gym owners.

For example, the funds were not permitted to be used to pay for rent, or for instructors who are employed as independent contractors, which are two of the most significant costs that local gyms have.

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Gyms cannot survive without industry-specific relief or corrections to prior PPP programs. That’s why the Community Gyms Coalition, which we are proudly a part of, is aggressively urging Congress to take action, save thousands of jobs, and support the fitness industry.

Just last week, over 15,000 small and mid-size gyms stepped up and sent a letter to representatives in Washington calling for industry-specific relief.

We recognize that the clock is ticking to save our industry. Tens of thousands of jobs are on the line. Congress must act now to save these jobs and help the fitness industry recover financially before it’s too late.

Deb Strougo is founder of RowHouse in NYC and Jordan Holland is owner and operator of Riot Athletics in Seattle. They are both Advisory Board Members of the Community Gyms Coalition. 

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