And now ... a coin shortage?

Dawn J. Sagert photo illustration

Local banks and stores in York County are among those nationwide feeling the pinch from a coin shortage — an unfortunate side effect of COVID-19.

With production slowed at the U.S. Mint and poor circulation of money through the economy since businesses shut down this spring, spare change is in short supply.

“We have seen decline,” said Ben Long, store manager for the CVS at 165 S. Richland Ave., York City, noting orders placed to banks to get change, which would typically return inventory of $200 worth of change, are only garnering between $30 and $50.

Though Long's store doesn’t have any policies in place, it is his recommendation that customers pay with a debit or credit card if they can, or round up their purchase to donate to the American Lung Association, a partner charity, he said.

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Coin orders from institutions such as banks or credit unions have increased as regions have reopened, but with production down and less change in circulation, the Federal Reserve's inventory is below normal, according to a June 11 online statement.

Effective June 15, the Reserve began allocating distribution based on historical order volume for each coin denomination — pennies, nickels and dimes — and U.S. Mint production levels.

Nyree Hanes, owner of First Capital KiDZ Clothes & More in York City, said she was not aware of the coin shortage but has seen a lot more people paying with credit cards.

Owner Nyree Hanes, right, makes change for customer Tracy Cruz, of West York Borough, at 1st Capital KiDZ Clothes & More in York City, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

And the economy is seeing the effects of poor circulation locally, as she notes it's been slow at her store because fewer people have been out and about, especially at events such as First Friday.

"First Friday is a big thing for downtown York," she said. "Normally we have tons of people out there."

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Chain stores across the U.S., such as grocery stores or gas stations, which typically carry a lot of coins, have made moves to try and stymie the shortage.

Stores such as Dollar Tree, CVS, Kroger and Wawa have asked customers to pay in exact change, use credit cards or round up their purchases and donate to partner charities.

Barista Robert Thomas, left, accepts an electronic purchase made by Erik Shinn, of York City, at Molly's Courtyard Cafe in York City, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Some local chains reached Tuesday confirmed their locations display signs asking for change or request exact change — but they declined further comment.

They referred The York Dispatch to corporate offices for comment. 

Jackie Dunn, manager for a Manchester Township Sheetz at 215 Arsenal Road, said credit cards are preferred and her store also has the Sheetz for the Kidz charity, for which customers can round up and donate.

“If they’re able to give exact change, that’s the best way,” she said, though no customer will be penalized if they don’t have it.

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Dunn said she cannot, however, offer customers change apart from a transaction, such as “if people come in and say, 'Can I get $10 in quarters?' because they want to do laundry."

That's because her store only gets so much change per week from the bank.

Sheetz in York Township, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Banks also are being encouraged by the Federal Reserve to only order the coins they need to meet near-term demand.

Banks can help replenish inventories temporarily by removing barriers to consumer deposits of loose and rolled coins, the Federal Reserve's statement notes.

BB&T — now merged with SunTrust to form Truist — which has eight branch locations across York County, released a statement Tuesday noting its change order clients are currently receiving coins based on availability.

“With each change order, most of our clients receive at least some coins, but we are monitoring amounts to ensure we have some available for all clients,” according to the statement.

As more coins return to circulation, officials expect allocations to increase, but in the meantime clients have been aware of the shortage and understanding, the bank noted.

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Tony Rivas, branch manager at the Wells Fargo at 12 E. Market St. in York City, said his branch tries to save coins for businesses that have higher need, but customers bringing in spare change would be a huge help.

The Federal Reserve noted its confidence that circulation will rebound once the economy opens "more broadly" but that temporary changes are necessary in the meantime.