Tireless Efforts in 2021 Provides Fitness Industry Hope for 2022

    It has been a year of tremendous progress for the industry’s advocacy efforts and 2021 has laid a strong foundation for the future.

    Congress and legislatures across the country are heading home for the holidays—which means there will be little happening before the new year. So let’s review all our advocacy actions accomplished in 2021 that lay the groundwork for success in 2022.

    A 2022 Victory Begins With Efforts in 2020

    By capitalizing on the hard work throughout 2020, we were able to get the Health & Fitness Recovery Act (HFRA) filed in the U.S. House of Representatives in fall 2020.

    We worked with Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)—our HFRA champions and sponsors—and a diverse group of stakeholder organizations from across the fitness industry to redraft, redesign, and rebrand the HFRA as the GYMS Act.

    Gyms, Studios, and Health Clubs Work Together on the GYMS Act

    The GYMS Act brought together businesses that previously only saw each other as competition. This bill was a singular vehicle and message that the entire industry and a coalition of organizations could use as we lobbied for relief.

    With our industry more united than perhaps ever before, we flexed our growing muscles and pressed our case in Washington, D.C., and the results showed.

    GYMS Act Reaches New Milestone

    When the House files a bill, it isn't automatically introduced in the Senate, and the reverse is also true. Many bills are never filed or fail to be introduced in both chambers of Congress.

    Thanks to the industries' efforts to build support for the GYMS Act in the House of Representatives and the hard work of committed industry advocates, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) filed a Senate version of the GYMS Act in May.

    With a relief bill in both the House and the Senate, our lobbying focus was two-fold:

    1. build support for each version of the GYMS Act and

    2. convince Congressional leadership that gyms need and are worthy of relief.

    A New CEO and Being an Advocacy Powerhouse for the Fitness Industry

    In August, IHRSA took the next big step in becoming an advocacy powerhouse by bringing on a new CEO & President with a background in advocacy.

    Liz Clark previously led the National Confectioners Association's advocacy efforts and has deep roots and strong connections in Washington, D.C. With Liz on our team, IHRSA's path forward became clearer than ever.

    Tireless Efforts in 2021 Provides Fitness Industry Hope for 2022 Column Width

    The Fitness Industry Gets a Seat at the Table

    The fall brought exciting developments. After months of boosting the GYMS Act, we were on Congressional leaders’ radars. As a result, when discussions began around creating a new business relief bill, we were part of the conversation.

    Unfortunately, Congress continued to wrestle with debt ceilings, infrastructure bills, the Build Back Better Actl, and more, which meant delaying, again and again, any movement of a business relief bill.

    We hoped Congress would include business relief in a large end-of-year spending bill, typically passing with bipartisan support. However, the sheer volume of large bills Congress was working on before the holiday break has delayed that annual spending bill until Q1 of 2022.

    Cautiously Optimistic and Hopeful for the Fitness Industry in 2022

    As 2021 winds to a close, we have several reasons to look forward to 2022.

    First, we expect to see Congress pass business relief in the first quarter of 2022, and we are cautiously optimistic that aid for gyms will be part of that business relief bill.

    Second, IHRSA has joined a coalition of associations supporting a bill (H.R. 6161) to reinstate the Employee Retention Tax Credit for the fourth quarter of 2021.

    At times, 2021 has been frustrating, but all the work we've done has set up IHRSA—and the industry—for a strong 2022 and beyond.

    Author avatar

    Jeff Perkins

    Jeff Perkins previously served as IHRSA's Vice President of Governance & Public Affairs—a position that focused on monitoring and influencing legislation at the state and federal level to protect club business models and operations, and help promote the health benefits of exercise.