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Connecticut DECD Says Mystic Aquarium Restructuring Offers Model for Tourism Businesses Struggling During COVID-19

  • Injection of $7 million in state funds coupled with other measures such as private fundraising and debt reduction to stabilize finances of Mystic Aquarium
  • Tourism sites make up a crucial sector of southeastern Connecticut economy, but most have suffered during COVID-19
  • DECD commissioner David Lehman says theaters and other hard-hit businesses should consider restructuring as a long-term solution

Governor Ned Lamont and Commissioner David Lehman of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development visited Mystic Aquarium on Tuesday to celebrate a restructuring of the popular tourism destination they say will bolster its finances for years to come.

The restructuring package, which carries an overall value of $31.5 million, includes $7 million from a revolving fund for manufacturing assistance, to be used for working capital and repaid over 20 years. The remaining funds are a result of debt forgiveness, new private donations and sponsorships, federal COVID-19 aid, and proceeds from a land sale.

Lehman says tourism accounts for about 7 or 8 percent of the state’s economy, and eastern Connecticut lawmakers writing to Lamont in May said tourism makes up about 20 percent of southeastern Connecticut’s economy. Lehman said that Connecticut is looking to assist with long-term solutions to ensure the financial viability of tourism sites that have been struggling with lower admissions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and urged theaters, museums, and other affected sites to consider restructuring similar to the process completed with Mystic Aquarium.

Lamont said during his visit to southeastern Connecticut, which included a stop at Holmberg Orchards in Gales Ferry, that the state is looking to develop programs to assist the tourism industry. The state previously launched the popular Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program to provide no-interest one-year loans to small businesses, but it stopped taking applications after exhausting the $50 million allocated to it.

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