Lawmakers put muscle behind legislation to help the fitness industry on Thursday after a year of strict Covid-19 precautions, capacity restrictions, and forced closures.
Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., introduced the bipartisan GYMS Act, which would provide up to $30 billion in grants to fitness and workout studios at risk of closing their doors permanently.
“Gyms and fitness facilities across the nation had to close their doors last year to help stop the spread of Covid-19,” said Moran.
“Small businesses across the country have been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and gyms are no exception — they’ve lost 1.4 million jobs along with tens of billions in revenue,” Duckworth added. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill that will help ensure gyms and fitness centers have the resources they need to get to the other side of this pandemic.”
Gym owners were optimistic earlier this year that the legislation, originally introduced in the House by Reps. Brain Fitzpatrick, D-Pa., and Mike Quigley, D-Ill., would be included in the nearly $2 trillion Covid-19 relief package passed on a party-line vote in February, but that did not happen.
The renewed push gives the industry fresh hope of recovery as more people get vaccinated and the country opens up.
“This money will be a lifesaver to our gym and enable us to continue to serve the people of our neighborhood. Now more than ever our community understands the importance of developing health, happiness, and longevity,” said Dale King, owner of a CrossFit gym in Portsmouth, Ohio, struck by the opioid epidemic. “This investment will aid my gym to become a center of fellowship through fitness and help individuals come back stronger than ever.”
Some owners have expressed frustration over the lack of focus on gyms when other industries benefited from relief.
“The industry hasn’t had as much muscle behind it as restaurants or theaters, but we have been trying to figure out how to get there, how to have a seat at the table in these conversations,” Debra Strougo, the founder of Row House, a chain of rowing machine gyms, told NBC News in February.
While positive progress has been made on vaccinations — to the point where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to drop mask requirements for fully vaccinated people — there is a long road ahead for recovery from more than a year of devastating losses.
“As millions of Americans get vaccinated and begin returning to local businesses in droves, fitness centers still need federal support to recover from over a year of challenges,” Quigley said in a statement.