Coin Jar

BLUEFIELD — Getting the quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies needed to make change have become scarce for some businesses as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the normal supply and flow of coins across the nation.

Large store chains such as Kroger have set new policies in place as getting the coins needed to make change have become harder to get.

“The Federal Reserve is experiencing a significant coin shortage across the U.S., resulting from fewer coins being exchanged and spent during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Allison McGee, corporate affairs manager for Kroger Mid-Atlantic. “Like many retailers and businesses, we are adjusting to the temporary shortage in several ways.”

The grocery chain has methods in place for addressing instances when coins are not available for change. “Customers can switch their payment type (e.g., use debit or credit vs. cash), and through our upgraded technology, we can now load coin change to their loyalty card for use during the next shopping trip, provide coin change at a lane with coins available or round up their order to support The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, a public charity committed to creating communities free of hunger and waste.” McGee said. “We remain committed to providing our customers with an uplifting shopping experience and the freedom and flexibility to choose their payment method during this unprecedented time.”

Locally, some businesses have had trouble getting regular shipments of change. General Manager Tammy Underwood of the Hardee’s off Bluefield Avenue said her restaurant has been able to get paper currency, but “we haven’t had any coins at all.”

The problem emerged about six weeks ago.

“We’ve had locals come in and I’ll ask them if they have any change, and several employees have brought coins in,” Underwood said. “We’ve been saving them in baggies. I just put a little piece of paper in with them saying how much money is in them.”

So far, there has been enough change. Underwood said she has noticed more people using credit cards or bringing more change with them.

“I’ve got a container of change in my house,” she added. “I’ve been hanging on to that for dear life.”

Other businesses have not noticed a serious shortage in coins.

“We haven’t really noticed anything,” owner Gwen Ramey of Sisters Coffeehouse in Princeton said. “We haven’t had a shortage yet. It’s been running smoothly. It (change) has just been what people have been giving us and us giving it back. It’s evened out.”

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System issued a statement Aug. 7 addressing why some parts of the country are experiencing a coin shortage.

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 board of governors. 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.

“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,” according to the board of governors. “Since mid-June, the U.S. Mint has been operating at full production capacity, minting almost 1.6 billion coins in June and is on track to mint 1.65 billion coins per month for the remainder of the year.”

“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,” according to the board of governors.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com

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