Why are coins hard to find during the pandemic? The Federal Reserve has seen a significant decline of coins in circulation because people are not spending them as regularly at businesses, many of which are either temporarily closed or not accepting cash. Coins are still plentiful. In April, the U.S. Treasury estimated more than $47.8 billion were in the market, up by more than a billion dollars compared to last year. But in recent months, people have not been spending those coins at places like laundromats, banks, restaurants, or shops because the businesses are closed, or people are not visiting them as often as they were before the pandemic. “The typical places where coin enters our society have slowed or even stopped the normal circulation of coin,” said the Federal Reserve, which manages coin inventory, in a June statement. Sales at restaurants, bars and gas stations dropped more than 40% in April compared with a year ago. Sales have since picked up, but some businesses — like bars — remain shuttered in certain states, while others can only operate at a limited capacity. The Federal Reserve has encouraged banks to order only the coins they need and to make depositing coins easy for customers. One Wisconsin bank system offered its customers a $5 bonus for every $100 in coins they brought into exchange at a branch. The program was so successful, the bank suspended it after only a week.
Kroger is halting the use of coin change at its stores in response to a shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, FOX 19 Cincinnati reports. The Federal Reserve said last month that the pandemic has “significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coin.” “What’s happened is that, with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy has gotten all — it’s kind of stopped,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said during a virtual hearing with the House Financial Services Committee on June 17. “The places where you go to give your coins, and get credit at the store and get cash — you know, folding money — those have not been working, stores have been closed. So the whole system has kind of, had come to a stop.” The Federal Reserve said in its statement that it is working with the U.S. Mint and Reserve Banks to address the issue through a “strategic allocation of coin inventories” to evenly distribute coins across banks and credit unions. Powell noted that the Federal Reserve expects the coin shortage to be a temporary issue as the country reopens and more Americans begin to spend again. According to FOX 19, the remainder of cash transactions will be applied to Kroger customers’ loyalty cards to be applied toward their next purchase. Customers can also used the funds towards Kroger’s “Round Up” program to support the company’s Zero Hunger/Zero Waster Foundation.