By FATIMA HUSSEIN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Got a dime you can spare? Parts are rare – again.
Retailers, laundromats and other businesses that depend on coins want Americans to empty their piggy banks and look under sofa cushions for extra change and “move the coins.”
A group of trade associations representing individual businesses, including banks, retail outlets, truck stops, grocery stores, and more, are asking the Treasury Department for more help in convincing Americans to hand over the coins in circulation.
The consequences of slow traffic are hitting people who don’t have the ability to pay for items electronically, they say.
“If retailers are unable to offer change for cash purchases, cash-dependent consumers will be vulnerable,” the associations said in a letter to the Treasury.
For example, people who do their laundry on coin-operated laundry mats might have a harder time finding change to wash their clothes. And on a larger scale, people who don’t have access to cash aren’t able to patronize some card-only businesses.
It is not a shortage of coins that America faces, but a lack of circulation.
“We cannot print our way out of this problem,” said Austen Jensen, senior vice president for government affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
Jensen’s group, along with the American Bankers Association, National Association of Convenience Stores and National Grocers Association, is trying to meet consumer demand and wants a new public campaign to increase coin circulation.
Jensen said his group also encourages member retailers to find creative ways to deal with parts shortages, including rounding up purchases for charity promotions. And he says companies with multiple locations could send parts from one store to another.
This is not the first time during the pandemic that the issue of low coin circulation has arisen.
The coronavirus has disrupted consumer shopping habits and shifted purchases largely to plastic cards so much so that in July 2020 the Federal Reserve restricted coin orders by financial institutions.
The Fed also convened a U.S. Coinage Task Force, made up of representatives from various federal agencies, which led to a campaign encouraging the public to put the coins into circulation.
Last February, the task force published a report on the state of the currency, which indicated that the pandemic shutdowns were slowing down small transactions that generated change and that there was a temporary aversion to cash for currencies. perceived hygienic reasons. The report also states that the Federal Reserve and the United States Mint have engaged a third-party consultant to review the coin supply chain.
Coin deposit volumes began to gradually increase from the summer of 2020, but companies say the problem has returned as people have stopped using coins and stuck to plastic cards.
The problem has had the greatest impact on people who do not have bank accounts. According to the Federal Reserve, about 22% of Americans were “unbanked” or “underbanked” in 2019.
The Treasury Department has yet to respond to the letter. The government encourages people to help keep the coins circulating by spending them at retailers, taking them to their banks and credit unions, or using a coin recycling kiosk like those found in grocery stores.
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