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Washington gym owner claims his insurance rates have gone up 1,000%

(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The owner of Ascend Gymnastics in Washington state says his insurance rates have skyrocketed as a result of COVID and shutdowns, and he has few options in appealing. He’s owned the Auburn location for 24 years and the other two sites for five years.

“And all that time, no unemployment claims at all. Nobody laid off, ever. Not an issue. Business was rolling prior to the COVID situation. Everything going well, in fact, growing every year. Things were looking great,” Brent Phelps told the Dori Monson Show on KIRO Radio.

He still had to pay into unemployment even though he hadn’t laid anybody off, at a rate of 0.13%. But he says the new insurance rates are more than 10 times that.

“The one gym is 1.42% as our new rate, the other gym is 1.13%. So basically, we went in our Sumner facility from $443 a year to $4,842 a year. And in Auburn, from $624 a year to $5,424 a year. And all this is based on claims that were made for people that I laid off due to being mandated closed by the pandemic,” he said.

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This, along with the impacts of the lockdowns, has cost the business greatly, which has been especially frustrating considering they had little control over the situation.

“We have quite a few employees, but I mean, we were down in our Sumner gym 47% in gross sales last year due to closures. Not only closures, but also the time that we were allowed to be open was so restricted that it was costing us money to be open as well,” he said.

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“We’re down over 20% in our Auburn location,” he added. “So yeah, I mean, revenue’s down. Rents are still due, utilities are still due, we still have overhead, but we have no revenue, so it’s definitely been difficult. And then to find out that we have to pay an increase premium by over 1,000% for actions that were not caused by us whatsoever — it’s pretty frustrating.”

Phelps claims the state told him that he could reduce the percentage if he participated in the voluntary contribution program.

“So first I called and was like, ‘Hey, this is this is obviously concerning.’ They said it was based on a four-year average prior. Last year, obviously, we had layoffs. Before that we had none,” he said. “I called them up and asked, ‘What’s the deal?’ They sent back a graduated chart of how much money I could pay to reduce my rate, so I could pay from $1,042, which would give me a rate of 1.13%, all the way down to $7,717, which would give me a 0.23% rate.”

He filed an appeal, but it was unsuccessful, and he feels like he has limited options at this point.

“Not only is it Mafia-like, but in Washington, we have to use the state for unemployment insurance. It’s not private like it is in other states, where we could go to B or C,” he said. “So I’m forced into one company and I have to pay whatever they tell me to pay.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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