Among other things, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a nationwide coin shortage, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says.
According to the New York Post, on Friday, Mnuchin informed House lawmakers that the US Mint is scrambling to address the problem as banks and businesses run out of change.
“As a result of COVID, a lot of the coinage is stuck,” said Mnuchin, confirming reports that food stores, retail giants, and pharmacies lack coins.
“We are working very closely with the Mint and the Federal Reserve on the coin shortage, and the Mint is working overtime,” Mnuchin said.
The Treasury Department is also “working on a public messaging [campaign]” but did not say what the actual message is.
Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Walmart told NPR that “like most retailers, we’re experiencing the [effects] of the nationwide coin shortage. We’re asking customers to pay with card or use correct change when possible.”
To sway people to bring in coins, a southeast Wisconsin-based community State Bank offers a $5 reward for every $100 worth of coins that customers bring in to the branch.
The Federal Reserve launched a Coin Task Force to determine how to assist the distribution of physical money. According to the agency, there are plenty of coins, but people aren’t using them.
“While there is adequate coin in the economy, the slowed pace of circulation has meant that sufficient quantities of coin are not readily available where needed,” the Fed said. “With establishments like retail shops, bank branches, transit authorities, and laundromats closed, the typical places where coin enters our society have slowed or even stopped the normal circulation of coin.”