Pandemic sparks coin shortage, more changes at stores

Coronavirus

A June 29 photo shows the notice posted at a a self-scan area at a Meijer store in Wyoming.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Changes caused by COVID-19 are leaving less change at stores like Meijer and Family Fare.

Signs posted at the retailers say customers temporarily cannot use or get cash at self-scan areas because of a national coin shortage. The restrictions include cashing in bottle return slips.

“While we understand this effort may be frustrating to some customers, it’s necessary to manage the impact of the coin shortage on our stores. We appreciate our customers’ understanding and patience,” Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi stated, emphasizing that cash is still accepted at staffed checkout lanes.

The supply drop is also hitting some banks that rely on business and customer transactions for coins, including Indiana’s Star Bank.

“We know with individuals staying home and not going out as much, just the volume of face-to-face transactions have been cut drastically,” said Mike Wallace, president of retail for Star Bank.

“It’s really going to impact our business customers that rely on change orders on a daily basis to obviously provide change to their customers,” he added.

United States Mint spokesman Michael White says when the economy is running on all cylinders, retail transactions and coin recyclers are responsible for 80% of coins moving through the economy. But when the pandemic hit, retail sales dropped and so did deposits from third-party coin processors, slowing circulation.

Less change from retailers and third-party processors and the reopening of businesses drove up demand for new coins. However, the U.S. Mint had to reduce production to safeguard its own staff from COVID-19, leading to a cap on coin orders by the Federal Reserve.

White said production dropped 10% in April and 20% in May, forcing the U.S. Mint to tap into its coin inventory to fill the Federal Reserve’s coin order for May.

U.S. Mint employees are now working extra hours on weekends to rebuild supply. Manufacturing ramped up to full production by mid-June, with the U.S. Mint pumping out almost 1.6 billion coins for the entire month, according to White.

The Federal Reserve tells WOOD TV8’s Fort Wayne, Indiana, sister station WANE that the coin shortage is a low-impact concern and should pass in a couple of weeks. It’s unclear when cash restrictions at retailers will be lifted.


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