With the majority of health clubs being forced to close, fitness professionals are not able to conduct business as usual
– Clive Ormerod
The US government has passed a motion that will see gig workers, independent contractors and the self-employed qualify for financial assistance during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak.
The announcement – part of a historic, US$2 trillion (€1.812tn, £1.612tn) economic relief package – will help, among others, the US fitness sector's fitness instructors, personal trainers, independent contractors, sole proprietors and small family businesses.
The bill will provide a range of critical benefits to assist self-employed individuals, such as making them eligible to unemployment benefits, which have been simultaneously increased to US$600 for all recipients for up to four months.
For small businesses – such as independent health clubs and gyms – the bill will mean access to a US$376bn fund, from which they can apply for loans at favourable terms.
It will also allow employers and self-employed individuals to defer payment of their social security taxes, while providing a payroll tax credit for employers whose operations have been fully or partially suspended due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
The US fitness industry – which has faced major challenges due to nationwide closures – had actively lobbied for the bill to be passed.
In an unprecedented move, two major industry stakeholders, Zumba and Les Mills, teamed up to issue a joint statement, calling on the government to support the country's 350,000 fitness instructors.
The statement – signed by Alberto Perlman, co-founder and CEO of Zumba and Clive Ormerod, CEO of Les Mills International – directly addressed Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
"There are roughly 356,000 fitness instructors in America," Perlman and Ormerod wrote.
"With the majority of health clubs being forced to close and the restrictions on the number of people allowed in a social gathering, fitness professionals are not able to conduct business as usual.
"When they cannot teach their classes and maintain their day-to-day teaching schedules, they cannot earn a living. It is important to remember the diverse members that make up the fitness instructor community have responsibilities beyond teaching class.
"Some are the sole provider for their parents, families and/or other dependents. With schools and childcare services suspended, some have now become teachers and caretakers at home.
"On behalf of this community, which represents our instructors, club and gym partners in bringing fitness to the masses, we ask that you do whatever you can to help."
Following the passing of the bill, Graham Melstrand, executive vice president of engagement at the American Council on Exercise (ACE), said: "On behalf of our 90,000+ certified exercise professionals and health coaches, we commend the US Congress and state legislatures for the approval of legislative relief for small businesses and their employees, independent contractors and self-employed individuals.
“Many of those employed in the fitness sector are exercise professionals and health coaches who are certified by ACE, hardworking people whose livelihoods are being severely disrupted as public health authorities urge or require their businesses or employers to shutter and Americans to shelter in place.
“These individuals are as essential to local economies as other types of workers and it was essential to include them in this well-intentioned deployment of needed relief solutions. In addition to the purely economic benefit these folks bring to the nation’s economy, the value of their services will be of utmost importance to our communities, which are undeniably facing highly stressed, disrupted lives and the associated health impacts.”