Fitness studios, gyms surprised by measures, say relief will help

Staff covering up treadmills in the True Fitness gym at HarbourFront Centre on May 7, the last day before tighter measures kicked in. Eligible gyms and fitness studios can tap 50 per cent wage support under the Jobs Support Scheme from May 16 to June
Staff covering up treadmills in the True Fitness gym at HarbourFront Centre on May 7, the last day before tighter measures kicked in. Eligible gyms and fitness studios can tap 50 per cent wage support under the Jobs Support Scheme from May 16 to June 13.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

The local fitness industry welcomed the enhanced support measures and rental waivers announced yesterday by the Government, saying it will help tide them over until their businesses are allowed to fully reopen.

Eligible gyms and fitness studios can tap 50 per cent wage support under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) - up to $4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to local employees - from May 16 to June 13, and this will replace the operating grant for gyms and fitness studios under the Sports Resilience Package (SRP). They will also get up to a month of rental support under the Rental Support Scheme.

Indoor sports facilities such as gyms have faced tougher operating restrictions under the ongoing phase two (heightened alert), including having to close, unless they offer only low-intensity activities, where participants are masked and do not share common equipment.

Singapore Fitness Alliance president Sean Tan noted that the current JSS support for the fitness sector has doubled compared with that last year. The director of True Group added: "Fitness businesses were not expecting to receive any rental waivers under the SRP, and were pleasantly surprised.

"This is an improvement over the rent waivers given last year for the circuit breaker as those rent waivers were on base rent, not gross rent, which can be 20 per cent to 30 per cent higher than base rent.

"By disbursement directly to tenants, situations where landlords hold on to rent waivers and do not disburse them to the tenants can be avoided. These measures will go some way to provide support and assistance to fitness businesses until their businesses are allowed to fully reopen, hopefully no later than June 14.

"While the disbursement timings are not ideal, at least fitness businesses have a definite time frame to work towards, and can make alternative arrangements in the meantime to stay afloat."

Earlier this month, national agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) set aside up to $18 million under the SRP for eligible businesses and self-employed people affected by the latest Covid-19 guidelines.

Barre2Barre co-founder Jessica Anwar said that she is behind on rent and has closed her physical studio for the time being to run only online classes.

Ms Anwar said: "It didn't make sense for me to pay the teacher for only two students coming in for such a low price. Anything from the Government does help, but the rent situation is quite tough for a lot of small businesses."

Individuals in the fitness industry who experience at least one month of involuntary no-pay leave or income loss of at least 50 per cent for at least one month, between May 16 and June 30, can now apply for the Covid-19 Recovery Grant (Temporary).

Those placed on involuntary no-pay leave may receive a one-off payout of up to $700, and those experiencing significant income loss may receive a one-off payout of up to $500. Applications will be open from June 3 to July 2.

Other new support measures announced by SportSG include a one-year membership extension for eligible National Registry of Coaches-registered coaches and instructors with valid memberships, usage permit fee waivers and one-year complimentary ActiveSG swimming pool entry access from June for SwimSafer coaches.

More information can be found at circle.myactivesg.com/industry/ support/sports-resilience-package

• Additional reporting by Kimberly Kwek

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2021, with the headline 'Fitness studios, gyms surprised by measures, say relief will help'. Subscribe