Relief for Gyms on Track, Congress Passes Infrastructure Bill

    While it may seem like things in Washington are at a standstill, behind the scenes the push for relief for the industry is still going strong.

    There has been a lot of noise in Washington, D.C., over the past month or so. It can be easy to think that this means nothing is happening with the GYMS Act, but nothing could be further from the truth.

    Late on Friday, November 5, the House of Representatives finally passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The bill previously passed the Senate, so the bill is now destined for President Biden’s desk, where he will sign it into law once Congress returns from recess next week. Congress is still negotiating over the passage of the Build Back Better Act.

    While there are still significant hurdles to overcome, we have never been closer to getting federal relief for the industry.

    You are not reading about it in the media because the drama in Congress to pass Build Back Better makes better headlines. Congressional and committee offices—with the power to get relief introduced and passed into law—are talking about how to do that for gyms.

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    Let me highlight some of the reasons we are so bullish:

    • Speaker Pelosi committed to passing a COVID-19 relief package for hard hit industries, including the fitness industry.

    • House Small Business Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) confirmed that her committee was working on a COVID-19 relief package for the hardest hit businesses.

    • Senate Small Business Chairman Ben Cardin (D-MD) confirmed his support for a small business relief package, which would include gyms.

    • The GYMS Act enjoys a high-level of bipartisan support in both legislative chambers, including 157 co-sponsors in the House and 27 co-sponsors in the Senate. And thanks to tireless efforts, 4 of the 27 are Republicans with that number hopefully growing. A few more are expected. This is a significant accomplishment—something that Senate Democrats are telling us is important.

    • Senate Small Business Committee staff are working on a draft of a relief bill now. It will not be the GYMS Act exactly, but it will be a grant program for gyms. We are working to ensure this relief is available to as many studios, gyms, and health clubs as impacted by the pandemic as possible.

    The hurdles remaining fall into two areas.

    First, as everyone is well aware by now, it is very hard for Congress to agree on anything these days. We see this as they continue to struggle to pass President Biden’s Build Back Better bill.

    Second, political concerns about a pandemic spending spree, and stories of restaurant and live venue relief not going to the small businesses in need back during one of the earlier rounds of pandemic relief, means we must fight to make sure that the relief measure really delivers for the businesses that need it in the industry.

    Both issues are real hurdles and potential impediments to relief for gyms, but we can’t give up when we are this close.

    Author avatar

    Helen Durkin

    Helen Durkin, JD, previously served as IHRSA's Executive Vice President of Public Policy—a position that served as a champion for the industry and advocate for physical activity, primary prevention, and public policies that promote wellness.