The fitness industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and after months of closures some are calling for help from Congress.
Yahoo Finance reports that many smaller gyms have been so hard hit that they may never recover, and that larger chains have had to get creative during the pandemic to stay afloat — including 24-Hour Fitness filing for bankruptcy, Planet Fitness curbing its aggressive expansion effort, and Orangetheory Fitness raising money.
Orangetheory CEO David Long told Yahoo Finance that the industry shouldn’t be left out of any future congressional aid packages, and said that some of the largest players in the industry will unite to push for their inclusion in future legislation.
“Fitness and wellness is so essential for our world and the U.S. more than ever before,” Long told Yahoo Finance. “We have formed a fitness alliance of over 30 of the largest U.S. and global brands. You are going to see starting in September a real push to really bring that to the surface and make sure that the fitness industry is not forgotten.”
Some franchisees qualified for federal benefits under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which allowed small businesses to continue to pay staff. However, according to a press release dated August 7, Joe Moore, then-president of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association said that much of the industry didn’t qualify for those benefits.
“From the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, state and local governments moved quickly to shut down health and fitness businesses,” Moore said in the release. “This had a devastating impact on the industry, which is comprised overwhelmingly of small individual operators. Unlike many other businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, health and fitness clubs could not pivot to new revenue streams.
“To add insult to injury, Congress inexplicably left much of the fitness industry unable to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program. As a result, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost and as a direct result of Congressional failure to fix this problem — hundreds of thousands of more jobs will be lost.”
Meanwhile, gyms around the country have begun to reopen slowly, in some cases with additional restrictions aimed at curbing the risk of spread.