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Universal Orlando theme parks will remain closed through May; employees face pay cuts, furloughs

CityWalk, hotels, parks remained closed until at least May 31; part-time workers furloughed beginning May 3

ORLANDO, Fla. – Guests won’t be able to visit Universal Orlando’s theme parks until at least June 1 after the entertainment company announced it would keep the parks closed to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further and begin furloughing some employees next month.

Universal Orlando closed all three of its parks on March 15 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Most recently, the company said the parks would reopen in mid April but on Thursday Universal announced the parks will stay shuttered until at least May 31.

The closures also include Universal CityWalk and all Universal Orlando Resorts.

All theme parks, including Walt Disney World Resort and SeaWorld Orlando have been closed since mid March.

Unlike, Disney and SeaWorld, Universal had not yet announced furloughs due to the shut down.

On Thursday, Universal Orlando became the latest to announce part-time workers would be furloughed beginning May 3 and all other workers would see their pay cut 20% beginning April 20. All employees who have benefits will continue to have those.

“Taking care of our team members during this difficult and challenging time remains one of our most important priorities. We are working hard to find solutions that also allow us to sustain our business,” Universal Orlando said in a statement. “Our team members will be paid at 100 percent through April 19, but as we enter a more prolonged closure period, we need to take additional measures. Beginning April 20, nearly all our team members will be paid at 80 percent of their pay – and we will ask them to adjust their work accordingly. A small group of team members will be asked to continue working at 100 percent and will continue to be paid at that level. We have also made the difficult decision that we will furlough our part-time hourly workers beginning May 3."

The coronavirus has had a major negative impact on Central Florida’s tourism industry. Thousands of workers in Central Florida have been furloughed or let go due to coronavirus-related closures.

Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond painted a bleak picture Monday of the affect the pandemic will have on the county’s tourism tax dollars, saying the only thing he can compare it to is the fallout after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Because the closest thing I can think of that this would compare would be 9/11,” Diamond said Monday, but this time, “You had the world’s most popular theme parks closing down and you have 75 million people per year coming to the theme parks and conventions.”

After 9/11, Diamond said the county saw a 32% decrease in tourism tax dollars in the first month and over 11 months things continue to decline.

“All of these team members remain in our thoughts – and, while we don’t yet know when, we look forward to returning them to work one day,” Universal said in a statement.

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