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U.S. Mint asks Americans to circulate change to combat coin shortage

By Jean Lotus
U.S. Mint asks Americans to circulate change to combat coin shortage
The director of the U.S. Mint encouraged Americans Monday to bring their coins back out into the economy to address a national coin shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. File Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The head of the United States Mint asked Americans Monday to help with a national coin shortage by circulating more coins.

"Right now coins aren't circulating through the economy as quickly as they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic," David Ryder, director of the national mint said in a video posted to Twitter.

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Ryder suggested pumping more coins into the economy by using exact change, turning coins in at banks or exchanging them for cash at recycling coin kiosks.

The U.S. Treasury reported in April that $47.8 billon coins were in circulation, about $400 million more than in April, 2019. But with pandemic-related contactless deliveries and reduced in-person retail spending, coins are not circulating.

The coin shortage has been especially evident for people who use coin-heavy services such as laundromats, or those who ride public transportation or pay for necessities in cash.

About 45% - 60% of retail sore purchases, including those at grocery stores, are paid in cash, a letter to Treasury leaders from industry groups of convenience stores, grocery stores and other said in June.

Lower-income residents earning less than $50,000 a year are more likely to pay with cash. Many do not use banks and rely on cash payments, especially for purchases under $10.

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"These Americans will be at the greatest risk of having their normal purchases disrupted if the shortage of coins is not addressed quickly," the letter continued.

U.S. Banks in recent years were reluctant to accept coins and removed coin counting machines, causing piggy banks and coin jars to overflow.

But now bankers, government officials and retailers in the coin supply chain hope residents will bring those coin jars out of hiding and dig under couch cushions to release coins back into the economy.

"This is not a coin supply problem, it's a circulation problem," Ryder said.

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