Coin shortage impacts local businesses

The national coin shortage has made its way to Louisa County, disrupting some businesses in the area. 

Larger chains such as Food Lion, Dollar General, and Dollar Tree have signs taped to entrances and windows asking customers to use exact change or an alternative payment method such as debit or credit card if they are able. Some local businesses have felt the impact more than others, and they say it’s been more of an inconvenience than a challenge. 

Donna Patrick, owner of Smokin’ Eddies BBQ on Main Street, said that she has been able to get one roll at a time of each type of coin from the bank— pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters—enough for two days. 

“It depends on how busy we are and how many people pay with cash,” Patrick said. “But I would say [that amount of coins lasts] two days, tops.” 

For the remaining days, the community has stepped up to put coinage back in the local economy. Some customers have brought in rolled coins to businesses on their own, and some businesses are inviting customers to bring in rolled coins to cash in and encouraging employees to trade in coins for bills. 

“We’ve been emptying our piggy banks at home in order to make up for the coin shortage,” said Rachel Shoupe, who works at Obrigado Restaurant and Floozies Pie Shop.

Sheetz invited customers to bring in coins to contribute to the store's annual Christmas in July fundraiser, according to Nick Ruffner, a company spokesman. The store used it as a means to have more coins on hand, trading them for dollar bills to contribute to toys for needy children during the holidays.

Banks have also been encouraging and incentivizing people to bring in coins. Essex Bank, for example, offered to waive coin counting fees and credit the amount to people’s accounts. 

“We had a lot of people come in from the communities and bring in their coins to put back in the system,” said Rex Smith, president and chief executive officer of Essex Bank. 

According to Smith, the shortage is a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing. 

“When the COVID outbreak hit, the [U.S.] Mint was on limited staffing, which reduced the output of coins being made,” Smith said. “This trickled into the system and there ended up being a shortage of coin being delivered.” 

The Mint’s limited schedule resulted in fewer coins produced and distributed. Banks received fewer coins than normal, and it was ultimately up to the bank how they would handle the shortage.

“Some banks said they’re not going to give any coins for certain transactions,” Smith said. “Other banks said we’re going to try to limit it, and we’ll work with you as best we can. That’s what we were doing.” 

Smith, however, says the shortage will be temporary and will likely improve in the coming weeks. 

“We [banks] are going to start getting more coins than we had allocated to us in the last couple weeks,” Smith said. “It’s [the amount of coins] going up about 15 percent for the next cash delivery, and then we expect it to ramp up from there. Hopefully, within two or three weeks, it’ll be back to normal.” 

While businesses and people wait for the coin supply to increase, the community will continue to step up as economic and social side effects of the pandemic surface.

“This pandemic has created a lot of issues,” Smith said. “But one thing I’ve seen is that there’s been so much support from the people and the communities we work in.” 

“The coronavirus has really affected every business from every different angle,” said Patrick.

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