LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Retailers like Ralphs and Walmart are no longer giving change to customers due to a “significant coin shortage” across the U.S.
When the pandemic shut down much of the country in the spring, the circulation of coins slowed down dramatically. To make matters worse, the U.S. mint had to cut production of new coins because of staffing changes to keep workers safe, then the Federal Reserve put limits on how much change banks would be given.
The shortage was noted last month by Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell in a briefing with the House Financial Services committee.
“What’s happened is that with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy has gotten all – it’s kind of stopped,” Powell said. “Stores have been closed so the whole system of flow had come to a stop. We’re well aware of this. We’re working with the Mint, and we’re working with the reserve banks, and as the economy reopens, we’re seeing coins begin to move around again.”
However, the shortage has apparently become more acute, with more businesses saying they can no longer give change. In a statement, Kroger – the parent company of Ralphs and Food4Less — said their upgraded technology allows customers to switch their payment type, and load coin change onto their loyalty cards for use the next time they shop.
“Like many retailers and businesses, we are adjusting to the temporary shortage in several ways,” the company said.
Walmart, meanwhile, has programmed some of its self-check out stands to process cards only.
The “There is a National Coin Shortage all Self-Check puts are CARDS ONLY” experiment some places are running to see how the “cashless” system may operate. This sign was at MY local Walmart btw…meanwhile I got more coins then I need in the crib #FOH pic.twitter.com/9prLGScNWu
— Craig (@BrothahAmore711) July 13, 2020
Some banks are asking the public to bring in their coins for cash, while the U.S. Mint has ramped up production to 1.5 billion coins a month.
The Federal Reserve expects shortages to ease as the economy opens up more, but it’s not clear when that might be.