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Local businesses impacted by national coin shortage

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski Reliance Bank teller Aubrey Weatherly rolls coins at the branch at 1921 Pleasant Valley Blvd., Altoona.

Area residents may have noticed a few signs in the area asking shoppers to pay with exact change or use a debit or credit card because “the U.S. is currently experiencing a national coin shortage.”

While coins haven’t really gone anywhere, the coronavirus pandemic has significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coins.

Because businesses have been shuttered or on a reduced schedule, and people are staying home and ordering more online, coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve have declined significantly.

Also, to protect workers from COVID-19, the U.S. Mint reduced the production of coins.

Those two factors — added to businesses reopening and now needing coins — have resulted in what some are calling a coin shortage.

A sign posted at the checkout counter at Shoe Carnival, Altoona, asks customers “if possible, use exact change or another form of payment such as a credit card, debit card or check.”

A similar sign can be found at Long John Silvers, Altoona, as well as GetGo (owned and operated by Giant Eagle) at the Bedford Turnpike interchange.

“Giant Eagle, like all businesses, is impacted by the temporary shortage of coins. While we are hopeful that this national issue will be short lived, we are nevertheless actively working to make as much change as possible available to our guests,” GetGo/Giant Eagle spokesman Dick Roberts said.

Sheetz is being affected by the coin shortage, spokesman Nick Ruffner said.

“Sheetz is alerting customers using cash that they need to use exact change. Additionally, customers can donate their extra change to Sheetz For The Kids or they can use prepaid ordering on our app/website or use options such as Shcan and Go, which allows customers to scan and pay for their convenience items through the Sheetz app. We are asking customers to use debit or credit cards as much as they can for transactions,” Ruffner said.

Local bank respresentatives said they have not been affected by the shortage, but the coin inventory is below normal levels.

Becky Crilly, senior vice president and senior operations manager for Reliance Bank, said the Federal Reserve issued a weekly limit for coin ordering that went into effect on June 15 and will remain until the shortage is remedied.

To ensure a fair and equitable distribution of existing coin inventory to all depository institutions, the Federal Reserve Banks and their coin distribution locations began to allocate available supplies of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to depository institutions as a temporary measure.

The temporary coin allocation methodology is based on historical order volume by coin denomination and current U.S. Mint production levels.

Crilly said the shortage, while related to the pandemic, is a result of several factors.

“First, due to the closure of businesses and the stay-home orders in place in many states, less cash and coin were being utilized as payment,” she said. “People were making more purchases online with either debit or credit cards.”

Then, she said, as businesses reopened and people began resuming physical payments, some merchants were not allowing cash payments, but only electronic payments in an effort to keep the virus at bay.

Contactless payments allow people to pay with a phone, debit or credit card, Crilly said, so cashiers were not taking in physical cash or coins.

While some individual stores seem to have a coin shortage, Reliance Bank has not been affected, Crilly said.

“Our typical customer exchange in coin leads us to be able to recycle coin that is deposited from businesses to utilize for other customer needs. If anything, we typically ship out more coin than we order,” she said.

Crilly said the volume of coin being deposited to the bank has not decreased noticeably.

“This may not be the same for all banks in the area, as it really depends on the activity of their business customers and the change in the needs of their customers. If other banks were typically ordering larger quantities of coin, the Federal Reserve limitation could affect them more severely than us,” she said.

While Reliance Bank is not actively seeking loose coin, “we always accept rolled coin for deposit or exchange from our current customers in the lobby or through our night depository,” she said, noting that rolled coin should not be sent through drive-up tubes, as coins can get stuck and cause the system to malfunction.

Wendy Naugle, senior operations officer at PennCrest Bank, said the bank has seen no shortage of coin, nor has Altoona First Savings Bank, according to President/CEO Troy Campbell.

“Historically we have shipped more coin back to the Fed than we have ordered from the Fed,” Campbell said of Altoona First. “We are not actively soliciting loose change from our clients but we do accept rolled coin at all locations,” Campbell said.

First Commonwealth Bank is working to supply customers with their change requests.

“We will continue to evaluate and modify as the shortage continues on a national level, or until the strain alleviates itself,” said Vice President Jonathan Longwill.

The Federal Reserve is working on several fronts to resolve the situation.

This includes managing the allocation of existing Fed inventories and working with the mint to minimize coin supply constraints and maximize coin production capacity, and encouraging depository institutions to order only the coin they need to meet near-term customer demand. Institutions can help replenish inventories by removing barriers to consumer deposits of loose and rolled coins.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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