Needed: Quarters, dimes, nickles and pennies.

The country is in the middle of a nationwide coin shortage brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to officials from the U.S. Mint. 

Not everybody has debit and credit cards. For many people, cash is the only form of payment, but those transactions rely on coins to make change.

During normal circumstances, retail transactions and coin recyclers return a significant amount of coins to circulation daily. 

But precautions taken to slow the spread of the virus resulted in reduced retail sales activity and significantly decreased deposits from third-party coin processors, resulting in increased orders for newly minted coins produced by the Mint.

In a press release issued Thursday, the Mint asked people to pay for purchases with exact change and find other ways to return coins they may have lying underneath couches and car seats, such as depositing them, exchanging them for currency at financial institutions or taking them to a coin redemption kiosk.

“We are asking for your help in improving this coin supply issue,” the release stated. “You can do so by paying for things with exact change and by returning spare change to circulation. Until coin circulation patterns return to normal, it may be more difficult for retailers and small businesses to accept cash payments.”

Julie Rivas, vice president and manager of the Prosperity Bank branch on West State Highway 46 in New Braunfels, said many customers have responded to the bank’s requests for spare change and have been understanding through all of this.

“We are reaching out to our customers,” Rivas said. “We have signs posted at our drive-thru, our front doors and at all of our local banks. If they have any kind of loose coin, they can call us and make an appointment to come in, so it’s not inconvenient for them. They’re happy to help us out. They’re really helping contribute to that circulation again and have coins redistributed in our community.”

Rivas said coin allotment has increased over the past couple of weeks, but dimes and nickels are still in short supply.

The nationwide shortage also has affected fast-food restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses.

A statement from San Antonio-based grocery chain H-E-B said the stores are testing several strategies to buy and conserve coins to serve their customers in the way they want to shop and pay for their purchases. 

“The public can help improve coin circulation by taking coins to their local banks or Coinstar kiosks and when paying with cash, using exact change. We have also launched a Change for Charity campaign where customers can donate their coins at the register to benefit Texas Food Banks and other local non-profits responding to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Signs have been seen at drive-thrus at several fast-food restaurants in New Braunfels asking for exact change or credit and debit cards for purchases.

The Herald Zeitung reached out to several fast-food restaurants in the city.

Early in the pandemic, the Mint implemented measures to mitigate the risk of employee exposure to COVID-19, which temporarily reduced the number of employees per shift to enhance social distancing.

“This has affected the community as a whole,” Rivas said. “We have been assisting our customers to the best of our ability with the coin we were allotted by the Fed. When businesses shut down, so did coin circulation across the country. To avoid handling cash and coins, people began using debit and credit cards more, further limiting the amount of coin being circulated.”

Rivas added that people that were required to stay at home used more cash apps to pay for groceries and food.

The Mint, officials said, has been operating at full production capacity since mid-June, minting almost 1.6 billion coins during the month of June. 

The Mint is on track to produce 1.65 billion coins per month for the remainder of the year. By comparison, in 2019, the Mint produced an average of 1 billion coins per month.

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