For weeks in the spring, stores couldn’t keep toilet paper on the shelves long enough. Now, some can’t keep coins in the cash register.
Business and bank closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coins, according to the Federal Reserve. While there is an adequate overall amount of coins in the economy, the slowed pace of circulation has reduced available inventories in some areas of the country.
Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., announced it will stop giving customers coin change as a result of the shortage of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.
The company operates nearly 3,000 stores in 35 states, including the local Pick ’n Save and Metro Market stores.
Kroger is asking customers paying with cash to use exact change, donate the change they are owed to charity or have the amount loaded onto a customer loyalty card to be used on their next shopping trip. Debit and credit cards are also still accepted.
The Federal Reserve is working with the U.S. Mint and others in the industry on solutions. As a first step, a temporary cap was imposed on the orders depository institutions place for coins with the Federal Reserve to ensure that the current supply is fairly distributed. In addition, a U.S. Coin Task Force was formed to identify, implement and promote actions to address disruptions to coin circulation.
Locally, the Bank of Sun Prairie is making it easier for customers to convert their loose change to bills or account deposits.
Residents with change to convert can pull into the first drive-thru lane at any Sun Prairie or Cottage Grove location. Have the coins in a sealed plastic bag. The bank will waive the 10 percent coin conversion fee for non-customers.
Anyone with too many coins to convert through the drive-thru is invited to make an appointment for curbside service.
“This is one outcome of the pandemic we didn’t necessarily see coming but it makes complete sense,” Jimmy Kauffman, Bank of Sun Prairie’s president, CEO and chairman of the board of directors. “There are just less people out there physically circulating coins. We are happy to help by gathering as many coins as we can from our community members while the Fed works to mint more.”
As the economy recovers and businesses reopen, more coins will flow back into retail and banking channels and eventually into the Federal Reserve, which should allow for the rebuilding of coin inventories.