More help for fitness industry amid stricter Covid-19 measures

SportSG sets aside $18m to help those affected by this month's stricter measures

Audrey D'cotta, founder of fitness studio The Moving Body, saw about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of her clients who do pilates for fitness freezing their memberships from last Saturday to May 30, after the introduction of stricter Covid-19 measures.

While pilates is among the low-intensity activities still allowed at public and private gyms and fitness studios, some customers chose not to continue with their memberships during this period, as they would be unable to use the equipment in the studios.

This worried D'cotta, 42, who still has to fork out more than $75,000 for rental and salaries for her studio's three branches this month. She said: "I was very concerned. I knew a lot of customers were not going to come in.

"Even when the ruling was changed to allow low-impact but no-equipment (activities), it didn't really make a difference because my clients enjoy using machines."

So yesterday's announcement that Sport Singapore would set aside up to $18 million under the Sports Resilience Package (SRP) to help gyms and studios allayed some of her worries.

The funds will help affected businesses defray their operating costs during this period.

"I was relieved that there was going to be some support," said D'cotta. "What remains to be seen is how the support is going to be distributed."

The SRP was initially launched with $50 million last year to help the sports sector mitigate the impact of the pandemic. The $18 million comes from the additional $25 million that was pumped into the package in March.

In a Facebook post, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong acknowledged that sports and fitness providers "bore quite a brunt of the measures". He added: "I want to assure our sports operators and professionals that they are valuable partners to us, and Singaporeans in general, and we will continue to work with them to enhance standards and make sports and fitness more accessible."

A $7.7 million Sport and Fitness Operating Grant has been rolled out to provide additional support for more than 500 entities.

Those eligible for this grant will receive a one-time disbursement, ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 for the three-week period of tightened measures.

With four of her yoga and barre outlets operating at 50 per cent capacity, Lab Studios co-founder Jasmine Chong, 32, was appreciative of the additional support.

She said: "Our business model would have to transform to become viable in this new environment, and having any kind of support is really appreciated."

To help individuals, the grant quantum for the Self-Employed Person (SEP) Project Grant, which was announced at the debate on ministries' budgets two months ago, will increase to $7.5 million from $2.5 million.

With the raised quantum, the grant aims to support about 300 projects - thrice the original number - that help self-employed people collaborate with one another and develop initiatives to enhance Singaporeans' health. Successful applicants may obtain up to $25,000 in funding per project.

Those who experience at least 50 per cent income loss during this three-week period will be eligible for a one-time cash assistance of up to $400 under the Sport and Fitness SEP Support Fund, which $2.8 million has been set aside for.

Fitness instructors can also apply for the Continuing Coach Education (CCE) Training Allowance that allows them to claim $7.50 for every claimable hour for CCE training, programmes or events, up to $300 a person until next March.