Nation’s coin shortage fading

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Local banks report suppliers able to keep up during economic slowdown

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with threats of murder hornets and other plagues on the horizon, Americans also faced a shortage of coins in circulation.

While the causes of the lack of coins in circulation appear to vary, local banks report they have no problem today addressing customer requests.

A lack of coins in circulation was confirmed by the Federal Reserve in a news release issued on June 11. The problem proved great enough that the National Grocers Association, the Food Industry Association, International Franchise Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Automatic Merchandising Association, Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve on June 23 to take decisive action to remedy the problem.

The Federal Reserve announced the creation of a U.S. Coin Task Force on June 30. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on June 17 that the economic shutdown prompted by the pandemic contributed to the situation. Federal Reserve offices in St. Louis and Kansas City informed banks ordering coins that only a portion of orders would be filled, based on available supplies.

According to Donna Beckett, vice president with Freedom Bank, located in Monett, the Federal Reserve has more recently pointed to decreased staffing at the U.S. Mint during the pandemic as a major cause for a reduction in supply.

Arlene Meister, cashier with First State Bank of Purdy, based in Monett, doubted that the lack of business activity dried up available supplies of coins.

“I can’t understand a business closing and not putting their coin stock in the bank,” she said.

In July, the Fed began loosening restrictions, and did so again in August.

“Coins can last for hundreds of years,” Beckett said. “I can’t see there really being a shortage of coins. People haven’t been out as much and coins may not be circulating like usual, but we’re doing fine. The correspondent we use out of Springfield [that orders supplies directly from the Federal Reserve] has not had a coin shortage.”

The lack of community picnics and festivals, which deal in smaller denominations of currency, reflected the currency slowdown, but the bankers saw that as much more minimal. Meister observed that even an event like the Stones Prairie picnic, hosted by St. John’s Lutheran Church northwest of Purdy, or the Jaycees Carnival in the past offered tickets purchased with dollars, so the actual amount of coins exchanged probably falls into a smaller denomination than one might think.

Meister noted First State Bank had been contacted by some customers who could not acquire the desired coin supply through normal channels.

“We were able to get customers what they needed,” Meister said.

"Thankfully, the worst of the coin shortage seems to be behind us," said Tony Mayfield, president of UMB bank's midwest region. "We recognize that some of our business customers may have been impacted on a local level, but from a corporate perspective, we were in a strong position to withstand the shortage and are seeing noticeable improvement of the coin supply in the areas we serve."

Beckett also said Freedom Bank had met all requests, despite the shortage.

While a coin shortage may have been more evident in larger markets, Monett area residents appear to have sidestepped another potential catastrophe in a year of hard knocks.

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