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Disney, Busch Gardens, other theme parks to furlough employees

With no reopening date in sight, the theme parks have started putting employees on unpaid leave.

Walt Disney World had said last week it would pay its staff through April 18 while its theme parks and hotels remain closed because of pandemic concerns. But the world’s most visited tourist attraction in Orlando, as well as other Florida theme parks, are now making it official that their employees will be on unpaid leave soon.

Disney will start the process of putting some employees on furlough status as of April 19 since there is “no clear indication” when its theme parks and related businesses will be able to reopen.

In a statement, Disney said that furloughed employees will still retain their full healthcare benefits during the furlough period, with all premiums paid by the company. The arrangement does not apply to unionized employees at Disney World who are covered by collective bargaining agreements, but the company said that it will set up meetings with union leaders, according to Theme Park Insider.

Related: Disney will remain closed 'until further notice'

Meanwhile, SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent company of Tampa’s Busch Gardens, announced Friday that it will furlough 90 percent of its workers without pay.

SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent company to Tampa's Busch Gardens and Adventure Island water park, is furloughing 90 percent of its workers because the coronavirus has forced the company to close its 12 theme parks. [JOHN RAOUX | AP]

The workers were furloughed beginning April 1. Those employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits. SeaWorld officials did not say how long it expects parks to stay closed or when workers would be able to return.

“The furlough period is uncertain at this time due to the temporary park closures and will be reassessed as business conditions dictate,” a statement from the company said. “The Company looks forward to welcoming back its ambassadors and guests when it is safe to open again.”

During Busch Gardens and SeaWorld’s closure, animal care experts will continue to look after the health and well being of the animals inside, officials said.

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