The gym industry has a long way to go to make up for the damage caused by COVID-19 over the past year, but it got another push in the right direction on Thursday, May 13, 2021. A companion piece of legislation to the House’s Gym Mitigation and Survival Act (GYMS) was introduced in the Senate by Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas. The original bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in February 2021 by Democrat Mike Quigley (IL) and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) and currently has 112 co-sponsors (92 Democrats, 20 Republicans).
The GYMS Act proposes $30 billion be provided to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to use as grants for gyms and fitness studios. Those grants could be as large as 45 percent of a business’s 2019 revenue (up to $20 million). CEO of CrossFit Eric Roza shared the news on his Instagram page via a screenshot of The Hill:
Note: Companion bills are similar or identical legislation introduced in the House and Senate so lawmakers in both chambers can simultaneously consider the issue.
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“CrossFit is honored to be uniting the fitness industry [with] a joint voice to influence lawmakers and drive billions in relief funding to our US box owners,” said Roza in the caption of his post. CrossFit is one of several large fitness companies that make up the Community Gyms Coalition (CGC), which represents approximately 15,000 gyms seeking relief from the drop in sales caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CGC has been lobbying for this legislation for the past seven months.
A December 2020 IBIS survey found that the gym industry was expected to drop 15.6 percent from 2019, with total gym memberships dropping upwards of 40 percent. “The market size of the Gym, Health & Fitness Clubs industry in the U.S. declined faster than the economy overall.” Per The Hill, fitness facilities eligible to receive relief via the GYMS Act could use the funds for payroll “costs, rent, utilities, mortgages and worker protection expenses such as personal protective equipment, among other costs.”
The restrictions on gyms and fitness facilities in each state are being softened as vaccination rates increase. Some notable examples are New York and Washington DC. The former’s fitness facilities are expected to allow 50 percent capacity on May 15, 2021. DC is expected to lift all capacity restrictions for fitness facilities on May 21.
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Just a Bill
Although the GYMS Act has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, there is not yet majority support in either. The latest action taken for the bill in the House was its referral to the House Committee on Small Business on February 5, 2021, when it was first introduced. This companion legislation in the Senate is a big step, but there is still more support needed. Roza said as much himself:
Seven months of hard work beginning to pay off… over 100 supporters already in the House and here comes the Senate. But we’re not there yet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their public health recommendations regarding COVID-19 on May 13, 2021, to loosen the necessity of mask-wearing for fully vaccinated persons:
“…fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
According to CDC vaccination data, 118,987,308 people in the USA have been fully vaccinated — 35.8 percent of the country’s total population. At the time this article was written, an additional 35,636,923 people have received the first dose of their respective vaccines.
The trajectory for the GYMS Act seems promising as more gyms across the country have been able to reopen and increase their capacity as the number of people vaccinated increases. Hopefully, Congress acts soon, as supporting gyms with the resources they need is one path to getting the country back in shape.
Feature image: @rozaeric on Instagram