The San Diego Zoo’s 27-foot-tall bronze lion graces the entrance. Photo by Chri Stone

Members of San Diego’s congressional delegation sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Wednesday seeking COVID-19 relief assistance for zoos, aquariums and museums nationwide, including the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park.

“For the first time in their 103-year history, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were forced to close their doors to the public in the wake of COVID-19,” said the letter signed by Reps. Susan Davis, Scott Peters, Juan Vargas and Mike Levin.

“With this unprecedented closure, the zoo is still incurring significant expenses to care for its animals and plants, including many who are threatened or endangered, as well as those of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, without revenue to mitigate costs,” the letter says. “During normal operations, San Diego Zoo Global’s economic impact is an estimated $1.7 billion annually, employing 3,000 Californians, and indirectly contributing to more than 14,000 jobs in San Diego.”

The members asked for three specific actions from congressional leadership:

  • Lift caps on the paycheck protection program offered through the Small Business Association to include nonprofit organizations with more than 500 employees.
  • Allocate an additional $1 billion to the Institute of Museum and Library Services to support zoos, aquariums and museums in preventing, preparing and responding to COVID-19
  • And expand the universal charitable deduction provision in the COVID-19 stimulus CARES Act by removing the $300 cap.

With those changes, nonprofit organizations would have a fighting chance to stay open after the worst of the public health crisis and could continue scientific work while closed, the San Diego lawmakers said.

Last year, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park together welcomed more than 5 million visitors.

The parks are home to more than 6,500 animals of more than 950 species and a botanical collection representing more than 700,000 exotic plants.

— City News Service

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