Good, but not good enough.
This is the sentiment shared by fitness business owners on the federal government’s recent changes to the CEBA loan repayment schedule. While the headlines appeared optimistic, the reality is that the $20,000 forgivable portion of CEBA was extended by a mere 18 days – which dismisses the immediate priorities of fitness businesses struggling to recover deep losses incurred during the pandemic and hoping to have strong starts to 2024.
“We are hard-working individuals, and many of us are working seven days a week to get our businesses healthy again,” said Gabriel Hardy, Executive Director of Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC). “But we have heard from our members that they need more time to repay loans while retaining the forgivable component. These are loans that were only taken on because we were shut down by the government over and over again. We stand with the CFIB, and ask the government to further extend the forgivable loan portion of CEBA”
The fitness industry took a serious hit globally – according to IHRSA, there was a 15.7 percent decrease in overall market share. Online training and home workouts experienced growth while data shows that 20-30% of gyms permanently closed or went bankrupt.
FIC is asking the government to extend CEBA loan repayment deadlines until businesses have recovered financially.
“We are not at pre-pandemic membership levels or revenues. In fact, across the board even those businesses doing well are only at about 90% of their pre-COVID revenue. And, many of our businesses are deeply in debt,” says Sara Hodson, President of FIC. ”We need to be able to get back on our feet again, and we need the government to support our industry and other industries voicing concern over CEBA.”
FIC is a non-for-profit association and the voice of the Canadian fitness industry. In a July 2023 survey, 65% of their members said they would not be able to repay the CEBA loan by the original December deadline. In a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, more than 80 percent of small businesses said the recent changes the government made to the CEBA repayment schedule were unhelpful; 87% said they needed an extension of the forgivable portion deadline until the end of 2024.
Canada experienced some of the longest lockdowns in the world – in Ontario, fitness businesses were closed for 174 days total, but in addition to lockdowns, masking and social distancing placed a huge strain on the fitness industry. According to global data, 20-25% of fitness businesses closed over the course of the pandemic.
“We are businesses that keep Canadians physically and mentally healthy,” says Hodson. “We know physical activity reduces the burden chronic health conditions place on our health care system, and we also have a direct impact on the mental health of Canadians.”
In two recent reports – one from Sheffield University, UK and one from Deloitte – data showed that physical activity provided more than $23-billion in health care savings in Canada; the direct impact of the Canadian Health and Fitness Sectors on the national GDP was estimated at more than $4-billion.
“We are in the business of making Canadians healthier, and yet the government is placing tremendous strain on small business owners who have suffered enough due to the pandemic,” says Hodson. “We ask the government to listen to the concerns of CFIB, FIC and Canadian business owners who are saying the same thing – give us more time.”
To join the FIC and add your voice to the industry, please click here
Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.