WASHINGTON D.C. — A coin shortage is sweeping across the U.S. much in the same way toilet paper became in short supply at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeff Lenard represents the National Association of Convenience Stores, the kind of retailer where nearly half of customers pay with cash.
“A lot of stores are unable to have enough coins to give change,” Lenard said.
Even some big national stores, like Kroger, don’t have enough coins in their cash boxes as fewer shoppers venture out.
“The problem is accelerated by people not using as much cash,” he said. “On top of that, the U.S. mint slowed down production of coins to keeps its own employees safe and industry insiders say that’s not making the problem any easier.”
But Coinstar CEO Jim Gaherity says its not really a shortage.
“There’s about $47 billion worth of coin out in the United States,” Gaherity said.
But the problem is the coins aren’t where they should be.
“It’s either at home with consumers, or it’s probably in businesses that have been shuttered and waiting to reopen.”
Last week, the Federal Reserve launched a task force of government agencies and businesses, including Coinstar to fix the problem.
“The charter for this team is to identify actionable items that can be put into place that can get coin moving and back into the system,” Lenard said. “If we can turn in those coins, to the coin redeeming machines, to the banks, we can make this problem significantly go away.”
The Federal Reserve says its confident the problem will ease once the economy reopens.