(CBS NEWS) – The United States Mint, the government bureau that produces U.S. coinage, is urging Americans to spend the coins piling up in their homes in order to increase the flow of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters throughout the economy.
The plea comes after the Federal Reserve last month said the coronavirus pandemic had disrupted the coin supply chain, as well as the normal circulation patterns for U.S coinage, causing a shortage of metal in the system.
While the Mint said there is an “adequate amount of coins in the economy,” retailers don’t always have the coins they need on hand to give change. And so it’s asking Americans to start “paying for things with exact change and by returning spare change to circulation,” according to a statement Thursday.
“We ask that the American public start spending their coins, depositing them, or exchanging them for currency at financial institutions or taking them to a coin redemption kiosk. The coin supply problem can be solved with each of us doing our part,” the bureau added.
The Mint noted that it had reduced the number of employees working its coin-production lines at the same time in order to enhance social distancing during the pandemic — causing a slowing of the manufacturing process. At the same time, coins are piling up in American homes as more people stay home, use contactless payment methods like credit and debit cards, and have fewer opportunities to deploy their pocket or purse change.
National retail chains, including Wawa, with 850 convenience stores, have asked customers to use exact change, or else pay with a credit or debit card or mobile app, citing the national coin shortage.
The Mint has been operating at full production capacity since mid-June, and has even increased production. It is now on track to crank out 1.65 billion coins per month for the remainder of the year, versus ab average of 1 billion per month in 2019.