As Covid-19 spread across the country and local governments put restrictions and closings in place to prevent infections from occurring, gyms and gyms were often the first and hardest hit. Now, almost a year since Congress passed its first coronavirus relief package to help struggling Americans get back on their feet, one sector feels largely abandoned.
“Gyms are the forgotten pieces. We talk about wage protection programs and restaurants, and everyone understands because everyone goes to restaurants and bars, “Dale King, CrossFit gym owner in Portsmouth, Ohio, told NBC News in a telephone interview.
Nearly half of all gyms across the country are expected to close their doors permanently if they don’t get the relief they need. In a final attempt, thousands of small gym owners are asking Congress for billions of dollars to run payrolls, pay rent, and make changes to comply with Covid-linked restrictions.
“I really hate asking for federal funding. But at this point, I consider it more of an investment in our health system in general, ”said King, an Army veteran.
“The industry doesn’t have as much muscle behind it as restaurants or theaters, but we’ve been trying to figure out how to get there and how to sit down at the table in those conversations,” said Debra Strougo, the founder of Row House, a chain of rowing machines.
Be satisfied with the congress
The law to restore health and fitness, which is expected to be reintroduced in the house in the next few weeks, would set up a $ 30 billion fund to “provide structured relief for health and fitness facilities.”
“We need help, and we need Congress to stand up for these companies, not just restaurants and bars, nightclubs and entertainment – but also gyms,” said Douglas in a telephone interview.
“We’re not exactly sure how to get to the other side – especially in the areas where the studios are still closed,” said Strougo.
Strougo and other business owners will meet with lawmakers next week. You’re seeing a critical window this time around for members of Congress to hear their concerns as lawmakers work out the details of the next bailout package.
DEPRESSION RUNNING RAMPANT
Depression, drug overdose, ill mental health, and weight gain are the side effects of an industry struggling to survive.
Dixon Douglas was personally affected by the far-reaching mental health benefits of exercise and first opened CycleBar in Winston-Salem, North Carolina after being diagnosed with depression in 2015.
“People go to gyms to relieve stress. Covid-19 has caused so much stress in everyday life that it is like taking your medication off when you turn off someone’s relief,” he said.
Debra Strougo says she hears countless stories of increased low self-esteem due to weight gain during the pandemic, and some of her clients are facing even greater challenges.
“We have a woman who had diabetes and had to take medication again because she could normally handle it in the gym and stopped taking her medication,” said Strougo.
PANDEMIC SHADOWING OF OPIOID EPIDEMIC
While the nation has focused on the coronavirus pandemic for the past 11 months, the prescription drug epidemic has also increased. Overdoses, which reached their lowest level in 25 years two years ago, are again reaching record highs.
King’s Gym is located at the epicenter of the opioid crisis in Scioto County, Ohio. He was on a mission to help addicts change their lives by training them in his gym. Now that pandemic restrictions were preventing him from seeing customers in person, King decided to rent equipment to members and virtually check-in. But he says it’s just not the same.
King said one of the men he worked out at his gym for years was overdosed and passed away last week. Data from the Ohio Attorney General shows that overdose deaths in the state are the highest in 10 years.
“Unfortunately it happens. It’s more likely to happen because of the pandemic, “he said.” I really think this is a really underreported thing. “
When many studios closed, owners like Douglas worked hard to ensure that community outreach wasn’t stopped.
Douglas sees charity as a central pillar of his business. His bike studio has raised over $ 55,000 for the Winston Salem community since opening three years ago. Despite the financial hardships he faces, Douglas says everyone in the community must show up for one another – now more than ever.
“If we don’t work together as a small business, we won’t succeed. We won’t see the end together. We are a community, ”said Douglas.