AZA News Releases

Access to Federal Funds for Zoos, Aquariums a Hallmark of New COVID Relief Legislation

Members of Congress express support for the zoos and aquariums in their communities.

Silver Spring, Maryland - With 2021 on the horizon, members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are enduring significant economic losses because of pandemic-related closures and reductions in operating capacity. However, they continue to provide veterinary care, housing, and food for the animals in their care.  With Congress’s passage of legislation to address the ongoing public health and economic crises, financial assistance could soon be on the way to zoos, aquariums, and other facilities that care for animals.

“Zoos and aquariums provide daily animal care and cannot simply turn off the lights and lock the doors. You cannot furlough the animals,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of AZA. “The grants and loans available in this relief legislation will save jobs and ensure zoos and aquariums will continue to provide the best care for all of the animals in their care. I am grateful that congressional leaders have recognized the key role zoos and aquariums serve in their communities.”

The legislation passed by Congress, which now awaits the president’s signature, includes many of the priorities AZA and its members have been advocating for this year, including:

  • $284 billion for a first and second round of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans available to small businesses and non-profit organizations with fewer than 300 employees.

  • $15 billion in grants for venue operators, including zoos, aquariums, and other facilities that meet certain criteria. These grants will be available to non-profit organizations including those with more than 500 employees and government-owned and operated facilities that were ineligible for the first round of PPP loans.

A bipartisan 451 Members of Congress supported the provisions in the COVID economic relief legislation, including U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and U.S. Representatives Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-07) and Steve Chabot (R-OH-01).

“Missouri’s zoos and aquariums are an important part of their communities, from providing jobs and supporting local tourism to enhancing educational opportunities,” said U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) “The pandemic has presented significant challenges for zoos and aquariums, and other venues that depend on visitors to sustain operations. I’m glad we could work in a bipartisan way to provide relief in this bill and I look forward to being able to visit our zoos and aquariums again soon.”

“Our zoos and aquariums are cherished cultural institutions where Americans can go to learn about the natural world. To slow the spread of COVID-19, zoos and aquariums are limiting attendance, and like so many other entities that depend on large crowds and visitors, have taken a serious financial blow during the pandemic. That’s why I was proud to work with my Republican colleagues in the latest relief bill to extend small business relief programs to help zoos and aquariums withstand this crisis,” said U.S. House Committee on Small Business Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-07)

“COVID has ravaged many sectors of our economy, and many businesses and organizations continue to suffer through no fault of their own.  Early in the pandemic as Ranking Member of the U.S. House Small Business Committee, I helped craft the Paycheck Protection Program which allowed many of our nation's small businesses to stay afloat during the economic shutdowns implemented in the spring.  But many entities still need help, including zoos and aquariums which have been forced to limit attendance significantly,” said U.S. Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH-01). “In the COVID relief package that Congress passed this week, I am pleased that zoos across the country, including the Cincinnati Zoo in my hometown, are provided access to the assistance they need to protect and care for their animals and to maintain their facilities while we continue to work through these difficult times."  

“Zoos and aquariums play vital roles in our communities—providing jobs, recreation, and education,” U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) said. “The public health measures that have been implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 have required zoos and aquariums to either severely limit visitors or close their doors entirely. I am pleased that the most recent COVID-19 relief bill includes funding to support them while we continue working to defeat COVID-19.”

“The zoological professionals who work at AZA-accredited facilities provide the animals the best care possible, while also finding ways to provide a safe and enriching guest experience, educate the public, and support conservation projects around the globe,” Ashe continued. “As we celebrate the holiday season and look forward to the new year, I invite the public to take the opportunity to connect with nature and visit their local AZA-accredited aquarium, nature center, science center, or zoo.”

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and 12 other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit

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