With the deadline fast approaching to counties to use up the CARES act money, each Brevard County commissioner is using it how they see fit, and one commissioner is focusing on the local local economy and a beloved non-profit which is also a touristic attraction.

Meerkats, kangaroos and rhinos all call the Brevard Zoo home, but just like with people, the need for food, water, shelter and medical checks never stops, not even during a pandemic. Brevard Zoo Executive Director Keith Winsten said it's a 24/7 job. 

“Zoo's are different than any kind of institutions, we can't just shut our doors," he said. "Most of our expenses continue because we have to care for animals and programs for the environment."

Brevard County Commissioner Curt Smith says the zoo not only helps the environment but is a touristic attraction.

“From the perspective of locals and tourists, the zoo is a very important part of our economy," he said. "From that perspective it's important to keep them afloat."

Brevard County commissioners have agreed to distribute part of the CARES ACT money to each commissioner so they can use it how they see fit, and for Smith it's the small business and places like the zoo.

“Each individual commissioner has $5 million and I'm trying to distribute as equitably as I can, purposeful way so as many business can benefit as possible,” Smith said. 

Because without those funds sacrifices will have to be made. Before the end of the year and just in time for Christmas, Smith said the zoo will know how much they will get. Winsten, who said he is on the nice list, is keeping his fingers crossed.

“One of the concerns we have is if we don't have funding, we are a high end vet treatment center for sea turtles, but we also provide long term care," he said. "Some turtles stay months, even years with us. We'd have to do an immediate intervention and send the turtles somewhere else."