Shedd Aquarium said Wednesday it has eliminated 36 positions and furloughed an additional 171 positions in response to "significant financial impacts resulting from prolonged closure."
Shedd, which closed March 13 to reduce the spread of coronavirus in Chicago, called the move a difficult, organization-wide reduction in workforce that came after "substantial cuts to operational expenses." The job cuts represent 8.3% of the aquarium's staff.
“The decision to terminate employees through no fault of their own was both gut-wrenching and yet necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the aquarium,” said Dr. Bridget Coughlin, president and CEO. “Moving forward, we are laser-focused on ensuring we are ready to safely welcome guests back as well as continuing to launch deeply compelling online programs such as virtual summer camps, educational social media posts, and Stay Home with Shedd Aquarium."
Shedd said it will continue its commitment to pay all employees, regardless of job responsibilities, through June 20. The cuts include a compensation reduction for all employees, the aquarium said, noting leadership began salary adjustments of up to 30 percent over a month ago.
More than half of furloughed employees are guest relations ambassadors who will begin returning once the aquarium reopens, according to the Shedd.
The aquarium estimates a minimum revenue shortfall of $23 million through the end of 2020.
“If history has shown us anything, it is that Shedd Aquarium is a resilient organization," Coughlin said. "Over the last 90 years we have weathered ups and downs throughout significant moments in time – but that resilience was always made possible through the resolve and generosity of the communities we serve."
Coinciding with the Shedd's 90th anniversary on May 30, the aquarium launched a donation page with a focus on reopening.