The latest update on the GYMS Act and why fitness leaders feel it’s so important.
The economic impact on the fitness industry resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has been staggering.
In 2020, industry revenue fell by 58%, 44% jobs were lost, and 17% of the overall total of 59,000 fitness facilities in the U.S. closed their doors, according to The Global Health & Fitness Association (IHRSA). This was in 2020 alone, and the fallout for the industry is still being felt.
In a recent analysis by industry consultant Rick Caro, in partnership with the top membership payment processing companies in the U.S., a reported 22% of all fitness facilities have now closed their doors, resulting in 1.5 million lost jobs industry-wide.
To help the fitness industry recover from these losses, health club leaders are rallying support for the Gym Mitigation and Survival (GYMS) Act, a bill that could create up to a $30 billion fund for fitness facilities to use on expenses such as payments of principal on outstanding loans, settling existing debts owed to vendors, maintenance expenses, administrative costs, taxes, operating leases, advertising, and fitness equipment, to name a few.
The bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on February 5, 2021, by Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). So far, it has received backing from 153 members of the House of Representatives, the same number as the successful Restaurant Act in 2020. The GYMS Act bill was introduced into the Senate on May 13, 2021, by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Jerry Moran (R-KS). As of August 11, 2021, 17 senators had sponsored the bill.
According to Gale Landers, the founder and CEO of Fitness Formula Clubs in Illinois, a board member of the Illinois State Fitness Alliance and chair of the National Health & Fitness Alliance (NHFA), the hope is that the bill will be included in a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package expected to be voted on by Congress later this year.
To increase the strength behind chances of the GYMS Act being included as a part of the larger bill, Landers is urging fitness facilities from across the U.S. to lean on their state representatives — particularly senators — to support the act’s inclusion.
“The reconciliation bill is what we see as the channel for fitness facilities to receive relief, many of whom are holding on by a thread,” said Landers. “Our nationwide priority remains to garner additional support from both the House and the Senate across all states. And we have a highly targeted focus on the Small Business Committee, which is made up of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the Senate. Three of those have signed on so far, including Sens. Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Roger Marshall (R-KS).”
IHRSA and the NHFA have created a dashboard where operators can easily contact their members of Congress via a one-click email campaign.
“Politicians want to hear from the people who vote,” said Landers. “That’s why we are asking fitness facility owners and employees to continue to advocate for our industry across the country. The reconciliation bill is already in the works. Now is the time things are being written and formulated. Now is the time to accelerate beyond what we have already accomplished.”
Landers views the fact the bill has received bipartisan support as a huge win for the industry’s future relevance in Washington D.C. “It’s important because we did not have a strong national voice of advocacy prior to the GYMS Act,“ he said. “When the pandemic hit last spring, we were not at the table, we were on the table. The GYMS Act and subsequent advocacy is raising the awareness in Washington D.C. that we have a united industry voice, and we want to sustain that voice going forward. As the saying goes, high tides float all boats. This is good for our entire industry, not just a few.”
With this in mind, Landers expressed gratitude toward IHRSA, hundreds of fitness owners and operators across the U.S., and members of the NHFA, who have worked diligently to rally support for the bill across the U.S. This includes NHFA council members Vicki Brick, Ori Gorfine, Erik Lindseth, Kevin McHugh, Pete Moore, Rodney Steven, Debra Strougo Frohlich, Jim Worthington and Adam Zeitsiff, along with Chris Craytor, vice chair of the IHRSA Board.
“Like so many others across the U.S., the people on the NHFA council, all of whom are volunteers, have invested a tremendous amount of time into enhancing the odds of getting the GYMS Act passed,” said Landers. “They have been incredibly committed. Between their leadership and the new IHRSA president Liz Clark coming on board on August 16, we believe the industry is much better positioned to have a galvanized voice at the federal and state levels going forward. But make no mistake about it, receiving desperately needed financial relief from Congress would be a game changer for our industry. Now is when ROI is best defined as ‘Return On Involvement.’”
So proud of Gale Landers for leading the move to raise awareness to the important issues effecting the fitness business and our national health.