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An Open Letter to Congress for Further Financial Relief Measures

Posted By Climbing Wall Association, Friday, July 10, 2020
Open Letter to Congress

The following is a letter written by the Climbing Wall Association to Members of Congress regarding COVID-19. The letter recommends the passage of high-priority financial relief measures that would help address the threat the ongoing pandemic poses to small businesses, including climbing gyms. A PDF version of the letter is available for download.

 

RE: URGENT REQUEST TO CONGRESS TO PASS THE HEALTH AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY OMNIBUS EMERGENCY SOLUTIONS ACT, THE PANDEMIC RISK INSURACE ACT, AND ADDRESS COMMERCIAL RENT ASSISTANCE FOR CLIMBING GYMS AND OTHER SMALL BUSINESSES

Dear Secretary Mnuchin, Speaker Pelosi and Leaders McConnell, Schumer and McCarthy:

 

We are grateful Congress extended funds through expanded Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and grants within the recent Senate proposals. We are deeply concerned, however, that the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the severity of the economic impacts of extended closures and reduced capacity operations will require more urgent relief measures for small businesses.

 

As you know, employers everywhere are permanently closing due to financial distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Climbing gyms are no exception. The indoor climbing gym industry has been growing year-over-year for over 20 years and was forecasted to be an almost $1 billion industry in 2020. Climbing gyms and other fitness and recreational facilities all face severe layoffs and the threat of bankruptcy during this crisis. This has affected, and will affect, tens of thousands of Americans. Through no fault of their own, climbing gyms are losing their ability to provide for members and employees due to lost revenue on account of massive forced public safety closures and reduced capacity operations. Climbing gyms and other such facilities rely on memberships and active visits for survival.

 

The Climbing Wall Association (CWA) and its membership ask for Congress and the Administration to urgently pass the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which we hope will support the industry and its employees, who live and work in practically every Congressional District, in enduring the present COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The HEROES Act includes, but is not limited to the following measures:

  • Provides additional direct payments of up to $1,200 per individual
  • Expands paid sick days, family and medical leave, unemployment compensation, nutrition and food assistance programs, housing assistance, and payments to farmers
  • Modifies and expands the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofit organizations
  • Establishes a fund to award grants for employers to provide pandemic premium pay for essential workers
  • Expands several tax credits and deductions
  • Provides funding and establishes requirements for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing
  • Eliminates cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatments
  • Extends and expands the moratorium on certain evictions and foreclosures
  • Requires employers to develop and implement infectious disease exposure control plans

The bill also modifies or expands a wide range of other programs and policies, including those regarding Medicare and Medicaid, health insurance, medical product supplies, consumer protection requirements, and pension and retirement plans.

 

We also take this opportunity to reemphasize our support of the American Society of Association Executives’ proposal for a pandemic risk insurance program (PRIP). This measure (“Pandemic Risk Insurance Act of 2020”; PRIA) would mandate that businesses who demonstrate significant business interruption and sharp decline in present and future revenue would be insured in case of a possible pandemic or epidemic.

 

This measure would create a federal "backstop,” much like the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), for insurance claims related to a pandemic or epidemic. The specific purpose of pandemic risk insurance would be to provide for a federal loss-sharing program for certain insured losses resulting from a certified pandemic/epidemic.

 

Following are the ASAE’s proposed details for PRIA:

  1. This measure would create the PRIP, a three-year program to provide a government reinsurance backstop in the case of epidemic/pandemic.
  2. For purposes of this measure, an epidemic is defined as the occurrence in a community or region of cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior, or health-related events clearly in excess of normal expectancy. A pandemic is defined as an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.
  3. When the Secretary of Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, certify that an “epidemic” or “pandemic” event has occurred within the confines of the United States, then this measure will immediately take effect.

The climbing industry and its employees also advocate for legislation that mandates eviction moratoriums and temporary rent relief measures for commercial tenants, especially small businesses like climbing gyms. This legislation should prohibit commercial evictions if the basis for eviction is the non-payment of rent due to financial impacts as a result of COVID-19 and should be applicable for a period of at least 3-6 months. Demonstrable financial hardship or disruption to business income due to COVID-19 is the recommended determining factor for commercial rent relief eligibility.

 

We request that Congress and the Administration enact measures to curtail the imposition of late fees and other charges related to unpaid commercial rent that may have accumulated since March 2020 due to financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to give landlords the support they need to take these steps. All levels of government and banks will need to come together to work to ease property tax and utility payments. These measures are necessary and overdue and must be enacted swiftly to avoid a massive default on rent, and the permanent closure of thousands of small businesses. The climbing industry and all small businesses need solutions that prevent us from going into unmanageable debt.

 

The business models of the climbing gym and fitness industries are uniquely vulnerable in the present crisis. As we confront this evolving and unprecedented period, we call on Congress and the Administration to ensure that America’s fitness and recreational facilities and their employees across the country can remain resilient. Tens of millions of Americans rely on these businesses in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

 

The Climbing Wall Association is the only trade association addressing the needs and interests of the indoor climbing industry. We serve climbing gyms, climbing wall operators, climbing wall manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, consultants and others involved in the climbing industry, and provide trade association services to more than 500 companies in the climbing industry. We provide relevant and actionable climbing business resources that keep the industry healthy and thriving. We do this through advocacy; developing industry standards; publishing industry news, data and analysis; sponsoring certification and professional development programs; and producing community-building and educational events.

 

Thank you for your consideration and continued support of our country during this challenging time. If you have questions regarding this urgent request for critically needed support for the fitness and recreation sectors, particularly climbing gyms, please contact Garnet Moore, CWA’s Executive Director, at garnet@climbingwallindustry.org or 720-534-2120.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rick Vance
Chairperson of the Board of Directors
Climbing Wall Association

 

Garnet Moore
Interim Executive Director
Climbing Wall Association

 

Tags:  advocacy  coronavirus  COVID-19  public policy 

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Building Power in the Darkest Hour – Advocacy Behind the Scenes of COVID-19

Posted By Alexandra Wojcicki, Thursday, May 14, 2020
Advocacy Update

Although our industry faces unique and unforeseen obstacles, we hope to offer some comfort in the knowledge that no one faces them alone. Your team at the CWA has been working diligently in the background to help leverage our power and amplify our voices around the issues that matter most in this moment. Since the initial outbreak began gaining national attention in March, we have been running two advocacy campaigns spanning the United States and Canada, focusing on providing guidance and relief for the industry in a post-COVID-19 world.

 

In the USA, we have released the CWA’s open letter to Congress, circulated a financial relief petition, released a survey to gauge economic impacts of COVID-19 on our members and the industry, and launched a letter writing and calling campaign. We’ve also mobilized a network of volunteers who are graciously leveraging their connections and initiating conversations with decision makers and decision influencers at the state level to push forward the industry’s advocacy agenda.

 

In Canada, we’ve aligned with the Save Small Business grassroots lobbying movement and the CEC Task Force, which is currently in the process of formulating an advocacy campaign plan. The likely first steps will include an open letter to Parliament with a template that gym owners can lean on to make personalized asks of elected officials. We currently have volunteers from each province researching decision making or decision influencing health authorities and their contact information, as the industry will need to have a voice in the conversation surrounding reopening mandates.

 

The CWA has also been getting ahead of damaging press (ex: references to climbing gyms as “petri dishes”, etc.) through a two-pronged strategy – proactively communicating with major industry publications on how to avoid accidental phrasing that has potential to promote long-term stigma, and drafting articles that highlight the industry’s inherent risk management proficiency, overall resiliency, and commitment to public health.

 

Upcoming advocacy priorities for the CWA will, for the time being, focus on publishing reopening resources which will be paired with a communication toolkit that helps gym owners navigate sharing new guidelines and regulations with their communities; releasing a guide on how to educate and communicate with your local health authorities, so that we can empower our members to advocate for themselves in localities where it is needed; and organizing strategies and tactics to create momentum behind a commercial rent abatement movement.

 

Regardless of what the next wave of COVID-19 developments may bring, the CWA will still be here for you, advocating on your behalf and creating resources to support your business. Brighter days are certain to come, and as an industry leader we will help pave that path. Thank you for standing with us as we could not do the work without you – together we’re stronger, now and always.

 

If you’d like even more insight into the CWA’s advocacy efforts to date, here is the recording of a recent Community Call in which we give an update on CWA's advocacy campaign and information on what's coming up. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to advocacy@climbingwallindustry.org – we’re always here for you, and happy to help!

 

Alexandra Wojcicki Head ShotAbout the Author

Alexandra Wojcicki is the Membership Manager at the Climbing Wall Association. She has a decade of experience working with nonprofit organizations on building member programs, managing partnerships, fundraising, and marketing. A Northern Virginia native, she is now based in Boulder, Colorado, as an enthusiastic climber, backpacker, camper, and traveler.

 

Tags:  advocacy  coronavirus  COVID-19  regulations 

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