WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is ending a program which subsidizes gym memberships for Environmental Protection Agency employees.
“We have ended taxpayer-funded fitness centers at EPA; a program that was costing American taxpayers $900,000 per year,” EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox told CNN in a statement. “Disinvestment in using federal funds for EPA fitness centers will allow the agency to invest this money in core activities to protect the environment.”
An EPA official told CNN that the move came after EPA employees in Las Vegas billed the agency $15,000 worth of yearly gym memberships at the Las Vegas 24 Hour Fitness, even though they had free access to the University of Las Vegas gym. The 24 Hour Fitness chain has more than five locations in Las Vegas, which offer varying amenities like indoor lap pool, steam room, sauna, group exercise classes and a full-sized basketball court.
The memberships cost $399 each per year for 37 employees, according to an expense document obtained by CNN.
On “Fox and Friends” in March, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt blamed former President Barack Obama’s administration for putting the program in place.
“Well, the gym memberships ended yesterday, it was quite something to hear about that,” Pruitt said. “It was the previous administration that granted those gym memberships … (which) were rather expensive.”
He continued: “It was something that needed to end.”
The new policy will go into effect on July 31
The Washington Free Beacon and Greenwire reported on the EPA move Monday.
The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents employees at the EPA and numerous other government agencies, said they’d been notified of the new policy.
“NTEU has asked for a briefing and hopes to bargain with the agency to retain some fitness facilities … ” the union said. “Fitness centers save the government money through healthier employees. Healthier employees are a long-term benefit to everyone, resulting in lower health care costs, fewer work absences, less stress, and more productive employees.”
The organization also noted in the statement that EPA employees represented by NTEU Chapter 280 pay a monthly fee for access to a fitness center, which is used by multiple agencies.
President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request would slash EPA spending by almost a third if implemented. His budget cuts the EPA’s total cash flow by more than 30% and its operational budget by 35% compared to current funding levels.
At a House hearing on the White House’s proposed EPA budget last week, a number of Republican members of Congress vocally objected to the proposal, which cuts the agency’s budget back to 1990 levels.