The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have entered into a cooperative agreement to implement Section 6003(a)(2) of Public Law (P.L.) 117-2, the American Rescue Plan Act. The enacted language of Section 6003(a)(2) states:
“$30,000,000 shall be for the care of captive species listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, for the care of rescued and confiscated wildlife, and for the care of Federal trust species in facilities experiencing lost revenues due to COVID–19.”
Under this cooperative agreement, AZA will provide reimbursements to eligible facilities that cared for endangered and threatened species and rescued and confiscated wildlife and that experienced earned revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds will be directed towards reimbursing eligible facilities for the following three captive care categories: 1) U.S. native plant and animal species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA); 2) wildlife rescued from the wild; and/or 3) wildlife confiscated by the U.S. Government at U.S. ports and borders or otherwise involved in international trade and held in animal care facilities. Eligible facilities do not have to be AZA-accredited or certified to be eligible to receive captive care reimbursements.
AZA will receive, process, and screen all proposals for completeness and will contact applicants if questions arise. AZA will respond to queries from applicants about the program, submission process, and status of proposals. Facility eligibility will be determined using the criteria outlined below and all eligible applicants will be reviewed by FWS (in coordination with NOAA Fisheries) and approved by the FWS Director. At that time, all applicants will be notified about the outcome of their submission.
AZA Administrative Point of Contact:
Submission deadline: November 1, 2021, at 11:59pm Eastern Time.
A completed application and all other documentation (see the Application Checklist for required documentation) should be submitted to AZA either through Dropbox or by email.
We anticipate making funding decisions and distributing funds before December 31, 2021.
For complete information, please review the Notice of Funding Opportunity and Application.
The following facility eligibility criteria apply:
Applicable Time Period: The applicable period covered by the ESCR grant for reimbursement expenses is March 2020 through May 2021. This may differ from the Designated Time Period; see below.
Captive Care: For the purposes of eligibility, the care that you provided must have been done at your facility, while the specimens were held in a controlled environment. The program’s intent is to support your efforts to care for covered species during the timeframe that your facility was negatively impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic.
If the care was provided off site, those expenses would not be eligible, except as described below.
Expenses to rescue animals (including confiscated animals), such as staff costs, travel, and equipment, are eligible, provided that the intent is to bring the animals into captive care. Likewise, similar expenses related to transfer or reintroduce captive animals are eligible. For instance, transfer of a rescued manatee from a critical care facility to a longer-term holding/rehabilitation facility, or release of a fully rehabilitated manatee, is a reimbursable expense.
Confiscated animals: Animals listed either in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) or listed as threatened or endangered species under the ESA, and that have been seized by a U.S. Government agency at U.S. ports or borders or otherwise involved in international trade and held at facilities for general animal care and welfare purposes.
Eligible facilities should provide relevant documentation that identifies the species and number of animals confiscated, the date(s) when the confiscated animals were placed and held for care at the facility, and a contact from the Federal agency that requested the confiscation(s).
Critical Life Support Systems: Critical life support systems relate to those systems that are essential (outside of food, shelter, and protection against the elements) for the survival of the animal(s) in captive care. For example, pumps, skimmers, and lighting for rescued coral.
Designated Time Period: This is the period that the eligible facility has designated for which they are requesting reimbursement. It must be a minimum of six months and must be within the Applicable Time Period range (March 2020 – May 2021).
Direct care: Any activity that provides direct support for care and welfare of the animal or plant.
EXAMPLES: Staff work that interacts with the animal or plant directly (e.g., keeper, horticulturist, aquarist, maintenance, transport, rescue, rehabilitation, return to the wild, etc.); staff work that results in a product (e.g., food preparation, medicine application, enrichment, development, enclosure construction) that directly impacts the animal or plant; and staff engaged in veterinary services (e.g., x-rays, analytics). This does not include management and administration, finance, human relations, guest services, public relations, government affairs, etc. If staff members were reassigned to direct animal care responsibilities (for eligible species) outside of their job title (marketing, administration) because of COVID-19, those expenses are eligible.
Earned Revenues: Eligible facilities must have experienced a 25% or more loss in earned revenues for the designated time period versus the previous pre-COVID year. For the purposes of this agreement, earned revenue is defined as monies that facilities receive from sale of goods or services, including ticket sales, parking, concession revenues, and special admissions. Philanthropic giving is not considered earned revenue.
The year-over-year earned revenue loss should be the total earned revenue loss for the consecutive months of the designated time period (minimum 6 months), versus the same time period for the prior year. It is not necessary to have a loss in each month.
The earned revenue loss is calculated against gross revenue before expenses.
Direct care: any activity that provides direct support for care and welfare of the animal or plant (see above). Fringe benefits can be included. Be careful not to duplicate any costs that you may have retained under the Employee Retention Tax Credit or any other federal grant.
Real property debt: allowable if specifically assignable to a separate facility committed to care of the eligible species, such as a “conservation or rescue center”.
Real property debt: Debt service payments are allowable if specifically, assignable to a separate facility committed to care of eligible species, such as a “conservation or rescue center.”
Rescued animals: U.S. native threatened and endangered animals (listed under the ESA) removed from the wild because of injury, impending threats, or impacts due to natural and human-induced activities.
Eligible facilities should provide relevant documentation that identifies the species and number of animals rescued, the date(s) when the rescue(s) occurred, the dates when the animals were cared for at the facility, and authorization from the Federal or state agency to conduct such rescue(s).
U.S. Native ESA-listed species: U.S. native threatened and endangered plant and animal species listed under the ESA that are cared for by a facility for non-commercial purposes (commercial is defined as selling of live ESA-listed species or their parts or products) and for the purposes of contributing to conservation, with emphasis on captive breeding or artificial propagation for recovery and reintroduction efforts.
Eligible facilities should provide relevant documentation such as an ESA permit or other Federal authorization, or certification that the expenses are for care of U.S. native ESA-listed species for the purposes of conservation and the name and phone number or email for a Federal agency point of contact who will be able to confirm that certification.
Veterinary Care/Medicines: Medicines, medical supplies, and non-food animal care supplies, such as animal bedding, PPE for staff, and other necessary care supplies may be included as eligible expenses.
This list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) answers common questions about the Endangered Species COVID-19 Relief program (ESCR), clarifies terms and provides additional guidance. For information on the documentation required, see the Application Checklist. For reference to all application questions, see the Endangered Species COVID-19 Relief Application Forms.
1. What is an eligible entity for an ESCR grant?
a. Facilities incorporated in the United States, U.S. territories, or commonwealths, that cared for U.S. native endangered and threatened species and/or rescued and confiscated wildlife, and that experienced at least a 25% reduction in earned revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible. See the eligibility criteria and key definitions for further information.
2. If I received a PPP loan, can I still apply for this grant?
a. Yes, but you may not duplicate your request with the same costs for which you received forgiveness under a PPP loan. This grant covers some expenses that PPP loans do not cover (food, veterinary medicines, transportation costs), and it may cover a different period than you utilized for your PPP loan request.
3. Do I have to choose only one of the three categories, or can I apply for a grant under all three (Conservation Care; Rescue Care; Confiscation Care)?
a. If you are caring for species that qualify for more than one category, you may apply for reimbursement of expenses in those respective categories. However, you may not duplicate any costs which were shared (such as debt service on a “conservation center”), and the maximum reimbursement is $1 million for any individual facility for all categories combined.
4. To what does the six-month time frame refer?
a. For eligibility, we require that your facility experienced at least a 25% reduction in earned revenue to a comparable designated time period from the previous year, for at least a six consecutive month period during March 2020-May 2021.
b. Claimed expenses must have been incurred during at least some portion of the same designated time period as the reduction in earned revenue.
5. We are not a public facility and earn no revenue from guests or entry fees. However, our funding has been cut by more than 25%, and it has significantly impeded our ability to continue caring for the species listed. Can we apply for the grant?
a. No. For the purposes of this agreement, earned revenue is defined as monies that facilities receive from sale of goods or services, including ticket sales, parking, concession revenues, and special admissions. Philanthropic giving is not considered earned revenue. Applicants must document that their facility experienced a 25% or greater loss in earned revenue in comparison to the previous pre-COVID-19 designated time period.
6. Our facility is not yet authorized to care for endangered species, but we did so anyway for a period. Can we apply for the grant?
a. Applicants must provide documentation or otherwise certify that they are authorized to care for Federally protected species and include a valid point of contact at the appropriate Federal agency.
7. Our company has a facility that is in the United States where the care was provided, but the company is incorporated outside of the United States. Are we eligible to apply for the grant?
a. No, the reimbursements are limited to facilities that are incorporated in the United States, U.S. territories, or commonwealths.
8. If an eligible entity has applied for or received any grants, loans, or other funding from a state or local governmental relief program, is it still eligible to receive an ESCR grant?
a. Yes. Receipt of pandemic-related or other assistance from state or local governments does not disqualify an eligible entity from the ESCR program. However, the applicant must certify that none of the requested reimbursement funds have already been covered by another Federal funding source (e.g., Paycheck Protection Program) or any other Federal assistance programs.
9. If we cared for an animal or plant under the eligibility criteria, but it was released, transferred, or died before the period for which the reduction in earned revenue is claimed, can we still apply for a grant?
a. No, the expenses associated with the claim must occur during some or all of the period identified for reduction in earned revenue.
10. We hold public events to “celebrate” the release of rescued and rehabilitated animals that raise public awareness and engagement. Are those expenses eligible?
a. No. Only costs that relate directly to animal care and that meet one or more of the three care categories are eligible.
11. We maintain a hotline for information about injured animals. Is that eligible?
12. Under the Conservation Care category, can reimbursable expenses be submitted for non-native species listed under the ESA?
a. No. Under the Conservation Care category, eligible species must be native to the U.S. and listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
13. Are design costs for a care facility of the specific qualified species that we do not yet hold eligible?
a. No. The reimbursements are for direct costs of care. Animals or plants must have been under care during the applicable period.
14. If we cared for one of these eligible species for less than six months, but it was within a timeframe of a minimum of six months in which we experienced an earned revenue loss of over 25%, will those costs be eligible?
a. Yes. The expenses submitted must cover only the costs related to the care of the species and can be less than the Designated Time Period of the earned revenue loss.
15. How do we submit the application?
a. Applications must be submitted electronically. A completed application and all other documentation should be submitted to AZA either through Dropbox or by email.
16. If an eligible entity is a hybrid nonprofit/governmental entity, should it apply under the nonprofit’s name and submit documentation demonstrating the public/private partnership aspect of its structure?
17. What is the deadline?
a. Submission deadline: November 1, 2021, at 11:59pm Eastern Time. We anticipate making funding decisions and distributing funds before December 31, 2021.
18. Is this a ‘first come, first served’ process?
a. No: all applications will be processed and reviewed after the deadline. Notifications about funding determinations will be made after the deadline, once all reviews and approvals are completed.
19. If you have a species at two different conservation facilities, should you lump the expenses into one facility cost?
a. Yes. If the facilities share the same EIN and other related fiduciary indicators, you should treat this as the same facility for the purposes of this reimbursement.
20. As a unit of the University of California, will you accept more than one application per institution/campus?
a. If facilities are distinct in their operation within the University, then separate applications are appropriate. Remember, eligible applicants must show a 25% or more loss in earned revenue because of COVID-19 during the applicable time period. Please see the Definitions section regarding the definition of earned revenues for the purposes of this agreement.
21. Can you please provide clarification on confiscated wildlife? Two scenarios: animals received directly following a confiscation and animals confiscated that were cared for at one institution for a period of time and then transferred to our facility later (could be years later). Confirming if both scenarios are applicable for the funding.
a. In both scenarios, assuming all other eligibility factors are met, please provide necessary documentation for Confiscation Care.
22. If reviewers have questions about a submitted application, will facilities have an opportunity to answer them and provide further documentation post-submission?
a. Yes. AZA will get back to applicants on receipt of application and submit a one-time post-submission request for further documentation, if necessary. AZA will not engage in a back-and-forth discussion with applicants to obtain sufficient information after the first post-submission request.
23. If we responded to an endangered/threatened species rescue through our rehab program, and then it comes into our permanent care during the allowed time would we fill out FORM A and FORM B for the same animals?
a. You should fill out the form the application sections and additional forms (as needed) that most directly apply to your specific facts.
24. If USFWS says we don't need a permit for the species under our care, would we just send USFWS contact information to count as documentation as housing the species?
a. Yes. The USFWS contact will be used to verify that you have the required authority.
25. What is the intended use of the funds?
a. This is a reimbursement program, intended to replace funds that were expended for the care of rescued and confiscated wildlife and for the care of U.S. native threatened and endangered species, if all eligibility criteria are met.
26. What about the effect of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant?
a. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) is a program that grants federal funds to certain operators, with its own timeframes, eligibility requirements, and a key requirement to submit a proposed budget at the end of the grant period. Applicants for the ESCR must take into consideration any expense items that have been submitted for reimbursement for the SVOG or any other federally funded program and must certify that there is no duplication in their requests. Refer to the Certification (required) in the ESCR Application.
27. We received funding through a federal grant that covered technician wages only during the time period (to care for animals) and we used travel/gas and other time/wages as match. Could we get reimbursed for the travel/gas and time/wages that we used as match for the other grant under this reimbursement opportunity?
a. Yes, provided the travel/gas and time/wages were directly related to care for species eligible under categories A, B, or C, you have not been reimbursed by any other federal government program, and all other application requirements are met.
28. How does the fact that we received PPP loans impact our ability to request salary reimbursement?
a. The fact that you received a PPP loan does not disqualify you, but you cannot request reimbursement for the expenses covered by the PPP loan. There are expenses allowable under this program that were not included in eligible expenses for the PPP loan. In addition, the timeframe of the PPP loan may differ from the timeframe of your ESCR designated time period.
29. On state and local funding, would expenses funded with federal pass-through funds that came from, say, a state government be considered allowable?
a. No. Expenses covered by a pass-through from a federal funding source are not eligible for reimbursement. However, funding that came directly from state and local agencies would be allowable.
30. Our expense support for the PPP loan included only a fraction of labor costs for that covered period. Could we consider that 100% of the eligible direct labor costs for certain employees under this grant are not pledged to the PPP, provided that there is ample percentage available to support the PPP?
a. Yes. The full amount of the direct staff and veterinary costs would be eligible, but only for the hours spent working directly with the species outlined in the submission. Applicants for the ESCR must take into consideration any expense items that have been submitted for reimbursement for any other federally funded program and must certify that there is no duplication in their requests. Refer to the Certification (required) in the ESCR Application.
31. With respect to the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC): is the 50% calculation of labor specifically for the periods where the ERTC period did NOT include the same time period for the PPP? I also assume that the 50% would be against the allocated labor.
a. The allowable expense would be eligible labor during the designated period, not otherwise reimbursed by the ERTC or the PPP for the designated period. The ERTC did allow more than just a percentage of payroll costs; please consult with your financial staff to determine the specifics of your participation in that program.
32. We care for a qualified species for recovery, that we also receive federal funding for from USFWS, that is not related to covid relief. Are the expenses for this care eligible?
a. No. Any and all funding from a federal source, such as USFWS, for the expenses listed as eligible would be disqualified from reimbursement for the ESCR grant.
33. Can our request for funding be more than our 25% earned revenue loss?
a. Yes. There is no relationship between the amount of reimbursable expenses and the size of the earned revenue loss.
34. Can we use our negotiated Indirect Cost Rate (IDC) to cover costs for utilities/property fees/etc.?
a. No. Indirect costs that are not defined in this program are not eligible.
35. Many of our staff work with several species, but we don’t track costs by species. Can we estimate the percentage of time spent caring for that species? What supporting documentation should we submit?
a. Yes, you can estimate the percentage of time spent caring for the species covered under the ESCR grant. We have developed an Excel spreadsheet template that may be helpful to you.
36. If we have staff that only work with one endangered species, can we ask for reimbursement for their entire salary for the time period?
a. Yes, if their sole responsibility was the direct animal care of that one endangered species, and all other application requirements are met, then their entire salary is eligible for reimbursement.
37. Is welfare monitoring (e.g., data collection/analysis) considered a direct animal care cost? Welfare monitoring and assessment being essential to providing the best possible care.
a. Please refer to the definition of Direct Care. Salaries for people conducting welfare assessments, data entry, and analysis as part of Direct Care would be included for the time spent on the applicable species.
38. Would costs related to research with a species protected under the ESA (for example breeding and reintroducing the American burying beetle) be eligible for reimbursement?
a. No. Basic research costs would not be eligible; however, the conservation care for American burying beetles (including breeding and reintroduction) could be eligible.
39. We don’t track cost of food or supplies by species. Can we provide an estimate for the costs related to the species for which we are submitting an application?
a. Yes. We will consider estimates, based on reasonable calculations that are supported by explanatory logic and supporting documentation. For instance, if you have multiple species of crocodilians, and can estimate the percentage of monthly food costs allocable to the native ESA-listed species covered under the ESCR grant, use that percentage of costs.
40. If food was purchased in bulk prior to the start of the ESCR eligible time period, but utilized during the designated time period, will those costs be considered?
a. Yes. Please submit the receipt and provide an estimate of the percentage of the costs that align with the designated time frame, for the applicable species only.
41. Are facility costs and utility costs only eligible costs if you have a separate facility (conservation or rescue center) where you can track utilities used for a specific species?
a. No. Reasonable allocations of a portion of a severable facility devoted to the eligible species are allowable, such as utilities allocated by square feet of floor space.
42. How do I get answers to any other questions about Endangered Species COVID-19 Relief?
a. For questions or additional information about Endangered Species COVID-19 Relief, please contact: ESACOVIDRelief@aza.org.