Fitness Industry Fights For Federal Financial Aid

SAN ANTONIO – A new piece of legislation just introduced in Congress could help the country's fitness industry.

If approved, HR 8485 would establish a $30 billion fund for gyms and fitness centers.

"It's just so important that Congress understands how badly hurting the health and fitness industry is,” said Meredith Poppler, the vice president of communications for The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

The funds could go toward back rent, payroll and utilities.

“It would cover the expenses that they've had to incur on revamping their cleaning and safety protocols. So it would really help keep a struggling industry from going under,” Poppler said.

If approved, the funds would help Tap Out Fitness San Antonio, which was one of the first local businesses to close because of COVID-19.

“It was pretty hard,” said Amaury Cofesi, who co-owns the gym with his wife, Melanie. “Devastating.”

Despite their struggle, the Cofesi’s immediately began to pivot and offer classes outdoors.

“We went to outside to parks, the parking lot, we went on virtual,” Melanie said.

The gym is open to 75 percent capacity now, but they have seen a decrease in the number of people who are renewing memberships.

“We want our members to come back, we want a place where we can have a safe environment,” Amaury said.

To help their members feel safe, Melanie said the gym introduced temperature checks, sanitization protocols and they reconfigured their space.

“You truly would feel safe if you went to your gym, but there are still people that are hesitant to go,” Melanie said.

According to IHRSA, without financial relief from Congress, at least 25% of clubs could close by the end of 2020.

“I just got new numbers just today that we think already 480,000 fitness industry employees have lost their jobs,” Poppler said.

Although the bill has just been introduced, fitness clubs are hoping it passes on its own or is picked up as a part of a larger relief package.

“We just are asking that you go online, sign that petition, let us get the ability to be able to continue spreading the word to our cities,” Melanie said.

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“It's not just about our business. It's about the fitness community,” Melanie said. “It's about the employees. It's about the families of those employees. It's about the members that need fitness for mental health or physical health.”