House Democrats urge Pelosi to prioritize aid for gyms

House Democrats urge Pelosi to prioritize aid for gyms
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Nearly 50 House Democrats on Thursday urged Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats seek to cool simmering tensions Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power MORE (D-Calif.) to include federal aid for gyms in Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package.

In a letter to Democratic leaders, lawmakers pushed for inclusion of the Gym Mitigation and Survival (GYMS) Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide $30 billion to gyms and health clubs that have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The GYMS Act would save millions of jobs and tens of thousands of small businesses, would allow for Americans to take charge of their health and fitness, and would further fulfill our promise to Build Back Better,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyHouse Democrats urge Pelosi to prioritize aid for gyms House Intel Democrats express doubts about completing Afghan evacuation by deadline Gyms, hotels, bus companies make last-ditch plea for aid MORE (D-Ill.), the bill’s lead sponsor.  

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Nearly all U.S. gyms were forced to close at the start of the pandemic, and restrictions have returned amid the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. But gyms are among a select group of hard-hit industries that have not received specified pandemic relief from Congress.

Twenty-two percent of fitness facilities have closed permanently since March 2020, according to the National Health & Fitness Alliance. The industry believes that number will continue to rise as gyms struggle to pay off rent and other expenses accrued during the pandemic.

Gym owners have ramped up their lobbying efforts in an attempt to get federal assistance included in Democrats’ party-line reconciliation bill.

The industry is pitching the Biden administration and congressional leaders on the health benefits of gyms, noting that obesity may triple the risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“If Congress and the administration want to build back better and invest in the health of all Americans, then support for fitness is crucial," said Brett Ewer, head of government relations at CrossFit. 

Nearly 60 percent of House Democrats have co-sponsored the GYMS Act, which also has the support of 27 House Republicans. 

On the Senate side, New York City gym owners and operators are also pushing Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLouisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in McConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill MORE (D-N.Y.) to provide federal aid, saying that they are unable to operate under the city’s COVID-19 restrictions.