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Coin Shortages: An Unexpected Consequence of COVID-19

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — If you’ve recently visited a grocery store or restaurant, you may have noticed that businesses are asking customers to provide exact change or use a card to pay for their transaction. This trend isn’t unique to San Bernardino County — across the nation businesses are struggling to provide adequate change due to a national coin shortage.

According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, business and bank closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation for coins. In addition, early stay-at-home safety orders for employees of the Fed also caused coin production to slow down.

It is unclear when the issue will be resolved, but the Fed has been working with industry sectors and banks to take steps to ease the shortage.

In early June, the Fed began imposing strict limits on bank requests for dimes, nickels, quarters, and pennies, as part of a “temporary coin order allocation.” Large retailers such as Walmart have adapted to this shortage by retrofitting self-checkout registers to card-only, and many small businesses are asking for exact change or card payments. Kroger markets (e.g. Ralphs), ask customers if their change can be applied to their customer loyalty card.

San Manuel Casino took a novel approach to the shortage, announcing a Flip Your Coins Into Cash promotion, whereby patrons that exchange coins can receive gaming credits.

Along with the temporary coin order allocation, the Fed announced the formation of a U.S. Coin Task Force. The goal of the task force is to identify, implement, and promote actions to address circulation disruptions caused by COVID-19. The Fed also returned to full staffing and is operating at full production capacity, upping its usual production of coins to eventually make up the temporary deficit.

If you would like to do your part in assisting with the shortage, now would be an excellent time to collect coins lying around your house and exchange them for dollars or rewards at a local Coinstar Kiosk. You can also check in with your bank or credit union and see if they are offering rewards for exchanging coins for dollars or reward cards.

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(source: San Bernardino County Health)

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