The Mint has been closed to the public for months amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and in an effort to minimize contact and due to fear of spreading the virus using physical currency, more people in the United States have been using credit cards and other cashless payment options, which has caused a shortage of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies in some places.
Last week, the Mint, which is part of the Treasury Department, put out a statement pleading for people to start spending their change to help increase circulation and limit the shortage.
“Simply put, there is an adequate amount of coins in the economy, but the slowed pace of circulation has meant that sufficient quantities of coins are sometimes not readily available where needed. You may be experiencing this in your local communities,” the Mint wrote.
“We ask that the American public start spending their coins, depositing them, or exchanging them for currency at financial institutions or taking them to a coin redemption kiosk,” the Mint added.
Businesses have also felt the impact of this shortage and are implementing new strategies to combat their lack of coins.
Numerous businesses are encouraging customers to pay with exact change, mostly because they can’t make change with the coins they have on hand. Multiple 7-Eleven convenience stores are running similar promotions, offering free Slurpees to people willing to trade $5 in coins for $5 in paper currency, reported USA Today.
A Chick-fil-A restaurant in Lynchburg, Virginia, offered customers free food coupons if they brought in rolled coins to exchange for paper cash. The location ran the special between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. local time on Wednesday, announcing it several days beforehand on Facebook.
The current number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the United States is nearing 4.5 million, and more than 150,000 fatalities have been recorded due to the disease - the highest totals in the world for both categories, according to Johns Hopkins University.