TUPELO • At the McDonald’s in Baldwyn, a sign at the drive-thru window asks customers to give exact change or to use their debit or credit card. At a Dollar General in Tupelo, there’s a similar request.
In fact, many businesses are having to tell customers the same thing.
A nationwide shortage in coins has trickled down to Mississippi and businesses from banks to restaurants are feeling the pinch.
A few Mississippi banks said they were unable to receive any coins last week, according to the Mississippi Bankers Association. On Monday, the American Banking Association reported that the Federal Reserve is developing a working group of bankers, credit union executives, armored car companies and others involved in coin transactions to address the problem. According to the MBA, the Fed has determined that newly minted coins will only supply about 18% of the need, and that circulation needs to continue to improve.
“Yes, we are feeling the pain of coin shortages,” said Debbie Bowling, First American National Bank’s Chief Operations Officer. She said the Iuka-based bank is not allowing consumers to get rolled coins, reserving those for merchants right now.
“We also encourage people to bring in coins they might be saving up in order to help our coin supply.”
The coronavirus crisis sparked a shortage in many items, from toilet paper to cleaning supplies to food at one point or another. And now it’s pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.
The Federal Reserve said the pandemic had “significantly disrupted” the supply chain and circulation patterns for coins. The U.S. Mint slowed production of coins as part of measures to protect workers, while coin deposits from banks have also fallen in the past few months.
“When shelter-in-place hit it caused the circulation of coins due to retail closings to be heavily impacted,” said John Oxford, Renasant Bank’s marketing director. “And then banks closed lobbies, people were using digital payments and some people hoarding currently all compounded together to cause a shortage supply.”
With all that in play, the Fed on June 15 started limiting coins it distributed to banks as part of its efforts to “mitigate the effects of low coin inventories.”
“What’s happened is that with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy ... it’s kind of stopped,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said, adding that the shortage should be temporary as the economy slowly reopens and the mint ramps up production.