Local retailers are dealing with an unexpected effect of the COVID-19 pandemic — a coin shortage caused by the slow pace of coin circulation because of the recent economic shutdown.
Restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations in South Boston have started posting signs on their windows, asking their customers to provide exact change if possible or to use their debit card when making a purchase.
The Bojangles on Old Halifax Road is one of the restaurants that recently posted a sign. The coin shortage has not had a major impact on the Bojangles location, because most customers are paying with a credit or debit card, restaurant manager Maxine Robinson said on Sunday.
“So far, it hasn’t affected us that bad. We still have coins, and we actually have had some customers bringing us change,” Robinson said. “They have limited us to what we can get at the bank – one roll for each coin denomination. That started last Friday (June 26).”
The Federal Reserve is asking banks to order only the amount of coins they need to meet immediate customer demand in order to alleviate the nationwide coin shortage. With banks only keeping a limited supply of coins on hand, that limits the amount of coins they can provide to retail establishments. At the same time, the Federal Reserve is asking banks to remove barriers to customer coin deposits so that members of the general public with excess coins in their possession can help replenish the supply in circulation.
Sandra Epps, a clerk at Murphy USA on Old Halifax Road, encourages anyone with extra coins to bring them to the local stores and cash them in for dollar bills. One of Murphy’s customers did just that on Sunday.
“The first time, he brought in a bunch of quarters, adding up to about $200. Then he came back with $200 more in nickels, dimes and pennies, and that really helps us,” Epps said. “If more people would do it, that would be great.”
The last time a Murphy’s store employee went to the bank, they were only able to get rolls of pennies, and a convenience store needs every denomination of coins, Epps said. Murphy USA posted a sign early last week, alerting customers that they did not have extra change available.
Many businesses were closed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and some remain closed, causing the lag in circulation of coins in the economy. In response to the coin shortage, starting Monday, June 15, reserve banks and federal reserve coin distribution locations began allocating available supplies of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to depository institutions, according to a June 11 article posted on the Federal Reserve’s website entitled “Strategic Allocation of Coin Inventories.”
The Federal Reserve also is in the process of bringing together a group of industry leaders for the U.S. Coin Task Force to reduce the impacts and duration of the coin shortage.
Because the demand of coins in the economy outweighs the supply, the value of coins has increased. As of April, the U.S. Treasury estimated that the total value of coin in circulation was $47.8 billion, up from $47.4 billion in April 2019, according to a June 30 article posted on the Federal Reserve’s website entitled “Federal Reserve Convenes U.S. Coin Task Force with Industry Partners.”