The Environmental Protection Agency has ended a nearly $1 million program that provided gym memberships for employees.
The new administration under EPA administrator Scott Pruitt identified the gym memberships as an abuse of taxpayer dollars. Examples of the program's misuse included $15,000 for gym memberships for 37 EPA scientists in Las Vegas last year.
"We have ended taxpayer-funded fitness centers at EPA; a program that was costing American taxpayers $900,000 per year," said EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox. "Disinvestment in using federal funds for EPA fitness centers will allow the agency to invest this money in core activities to protect the environment."
Pruitt vowed an end to taxpayer-funded programs after the Washington Free Beacon report on the agency spending $15,000 on gym memberships in Las Vegas, earlier this year. Employees in the U.S. Environmental Science Division billed taxpayers $399 each for gym memberships, even though employees had access to a "state-of-the-art" gym on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) campus.
The campus gym includes a relaxation room with massage chairs, fitness assessments, personal trainers for hire, a registered dietician, a spa and leisure pool, indoor jogging, and a "gender neutral bathroom."
The EPA began notifying employee unions last week that the agency is discontinuing fitness subsidies and fitness center funding, according to an EPA official.
The benefits will officially end on July 31, and no additional funds for fitness centers will be provided. For facilities that already have gym equipment that is paid for, the EPA will no longer pay for the maintenance of the equipment and will not purchase any new equipment.
The Trump administration has proposed cutting the EPA budget by 31 percent.