From toilet paper to your favorite soda, shortages have become a common issue as the coronavirus pandemic strains supply chains across the United States. Spare change has become the latest “hard-to-find” item. On June 11, the United States Federal Reserve Bank notified banks of a “temporary coin order allocation” placing limits on requests for pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollar coins.
According to the National Public Radio, the problem began when the coronavirus pandemic caused social distancing and other safety measures, which slowed production of coins at the U.S. Mint. Fewer coins made their way from customers to banks, coin-sorting kiosks and stores’ cash registers as people stayed home.
According to CoinNews.new, the U.S. Mint, which is responsible for producing coins but not paper money had scaled back operations to protect employees from COVID-19. During the first three months of 2020, just over 3.2 billion coins were produced, the lowest level since 2013. “The Federal Reserve is working on several fronts to mitigate the effects of low coin inventories. This includes managing the allocation of existing Fed inventories, working with the Mint, as issuing authority, to minimize coin supply constraints and maximize coin production capacity, and encouraging depository institutions to order only the coin they need to meet near‐term customer demand,” read a statement from the Federal Reserve.
“We ask that the American public start spending their coins, depositing them, or exchanging them for currency at financial institutions or taking them to a coin redemption kiosk,” Mint officials shared in a press release. “The coin supply problem can be solved with each of us doing our part… We are asking for your help in improving this coin supply issue.”
In the meantime, businesses are responding in various ways. The nation’s largest retailer is asking people to pay with credit or debit cards when possible. “Like most retailers, we’re experiencing the effects of the nation-wide coin shortage. We’re asking customers to pay with card or use correct change when possible if they need to pay with cash,” Walmart Spokesperson Avani Dudhia said.
Grocery chain Kroger had earlier announced it would not be giving coin change back to customers, asking them instead to round their bill up to the nearest dollar for charity or have the difference loaded to their customer loyalty cards.