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COVID-19 Update

By Dan Ashe
min read

Taking Action in Unprecedented Times

I want to begin by saying that I appreciate and admire Association of Zoos and Aquariums members’ dedication to our profession. Many staff from accredited zoos and aquariums and certified-related facilities are reading this from home, while some are diligently continuing to care for the animals at their facilities. Two weeks ago, two of our 238 members were closed: Ocean Park, Hong Kong; and Woodland Park, Seattle. Today, we are aware of 215 AZA members who are closed to the public, with no certain path to reopening. These are unprecedented times.

I wanted to take a moment to provide updates on AZA’s efforts and the responses of our members.

At the federal level, important actions are being taken and are under development. The Small Business Administration recently announced it will provide Disaster Assistance Loans for small businesses (both for-profit and non-profit) impacted by the coronavirus. 

Congress and the White House have already taken two specific and significant actions. They enacted an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that provided $8.4 billion for COVID-19 public health system response. Congress passed, and the President signed into law, H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill expands sick and family leave, and unemployment insurance, which will be helpful to all members with fewer than 500 employees. You can find a useful summary here. Additional legislation, including a third, $1 trillion-plus stimulus and recovery bill, are being developed and could be very consequential for our community.

These legislative packages appear to be designed to address the severe hardship that COVID-19 is causing across most sectors of the economy, including ours. AZA worked closely with the American Alliance of Museums and other related associations to develop an estimate of the impact that closures and a reduction of operations are having on the collective “museum community.”  Together, we sent a joint letter requesting $4 billion in relief funding. I believe we have strength in numbers in working with these partners to communicate our common and very serious situation to legislators, federal agencies, and the White House.

We have also established an Action Alert in AZA’s Legislative Education Center regarding the fiscal stimulus legislation. You can share our alert with anyone to deliver a targeted message to your Members of Congress supporting our financial request.

You can find more helpful resources on our new COVID-19 Resource page. It will continue to be updated with current resources including our communications guides, legislative updates and materials, and links to the ZAHP Fusion Center resources for zoos and aquariums.

We understand this crisis is having an enormous financial impact on our commercial members as well. From small, mid-market business segments to large corporate entities, regardless of your legal status and ultimate vulnerability please be assured that AZA is doing everything we can to include our commercial members in our efforts to address this ongoing crisis. The expertise, support, and business savvy of these members are needed at this time in leveraging relationships to act on behalf of all of the membership.

I know each of our members are doing their part to provide the best possible care to the animals at their facility. AZA continues to stand with our members in the challenging days ahead.

We Are AZA!

Dan Ashe is the president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 

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