National coin shortage has retailers pleading for exact change

The coronavirus crisis has sparked a nationwide coin shortage that reportedly has retailers pleading with customers for exact change.

The Federal Reserve revealed last month that the pandemic had “significantly disrupted” the supply chain and circulation patterns for America’s metal money. The US Mint has slowed production of coins because of measures meant to protect workers amid the crisis, while coin deposits from banks have also fallen in the past few months, the central bank said.

With demand for coins rising as states began to reopen, the Fed on June 15 started limiting how many pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters it distributed to banks as part of its efforts to “mitigate the effects of low coin inventories.”

Retailers have since started advising customers that coins are in short supply. Some Lowe’s hardware stores have posted signs urging shoppers to pay with exact change or use other forms of payment, as have convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, Pilot and Circle K, according to news reports and social media posts.

“At this point we’re having to call daily to get coin,” Karen Gordon, a 7-Eleven franchisee in Elmira Heights, NY, told local NBC affiliate WETM. “The most we’ve been able to get is $122.”

Supermarket chain Meijer has reportedly taken a different approach by banning cash payments in its self-checkout lanes until the shortage ends. The Michigan-based company is still accepting bills at its staffed cash registers, according to MLive.com.

“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,” Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi told MLive.com.

Fed chairman Jerome Powell recently told lawmakers that the shortage was likely temporary. Coin circulation was starting to improve as states eased lockdowns meant to control the deadly coronavirus, he said at a hearing last month.

“Stores have been closed. The whole system of flow had come to a stop,” Powell told the House Financial Services Committee. “As the economy reopens, we’re seeing coins begin to move around again.”

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