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Gephardt: COVID-19 causing coin shortage for Utah retailers, banks

By Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV | Posted - Jul. 7, 2020 at 9:04 a.m.



OGDEN — The coronavirus pandemic has brought runs on toilet paper, disinfecting products and more, but the latest shortage has been pocket change.

More and more signs are going up in store windows across Utah, asking customers to pay exact change or use contactless payments, such as a credit card or mobile wallet.

“It’s very difficult when our customers are used to getting coins they need,” said Trudy Theobald, branch manager of the Bank of Utah in Ogden.

She said the Federal Reserve has put a limit on bank requests for coins, so they are forced to be stingy in turn.

“Because we can only give out a certain amount of coins to make sure that we have enough for all our customers that we have to help,” Theobald said.

But what happened to all the change? It is not like all the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters simply vanished.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently told Congress the supply shrank when the economy came to a screeching halt with the pandemic. Americans were not spending near as much and when we did, we were opting for plastic and digital over cash and coin.

Another factor was production slowed way down at the U.S. Mint, so it could protect its employees from COVID-19.

“It’s hard to make coin, you know, working from home,” said Howard Headlee with the Utah Bankers Association.

Headlee said production is beginning to ramp back up, but he is not making predictions on when the coin shortage will end.

“When will people use coin to make purchases? When will retailers open up and accept coin? When will they deposit coin back into the bank?” he asked.

Here is what people can do right now to help fix the problem.

Trudy Theobald, branch manager of the Bank of Utah in Ogden, talks with KSL's Matt Gephardt Monday, July 6, 2020. Theobald says a coin shortage is “very difficult when our customers are used to getting coins they need." (Photo: KSL TV)

That jar or bowl overflowing with spare change you’ve collected for years? Yeah, take those coins into the bank and trade them in. Theobald and her team will welcome you as a hero.

“Yeah, we just got to get things circulating again and get the economy moving and get everything back to normal – not the new normal, but a normal,” she said.

Even taking your spare change to one of those supermarket coin machines will help.

Still, with the spike in new COVID-19 cases we’re seeing, it could be some time before the coin supply is back to normal.

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