Customers at some retail outlets are being asked to help refill the stores’ change coffers, underscoring a national shortage of coinage during the coronavirus pandemic.
Headquartered in Archbold, Farmers & Merchants State Bank orders its coin supplies from a regular provider who, because of dwindling reserves, has not always been able to sufficiently deliver.
“Sometimes they can fulfill that, and sometimes they cannot during this time,” said Taryn Schmitz, F&M senior vice president retail banking manager. “We’ve had instances where they could not fill the complete request.”
In some cases, the bank will receive only half the amount of coins it requests. “We anticipated that this could happen…so we had already put together a plan on how we would be able to compensate for that non-fulfillment of order if it came to that,” Schmitz said.
She said if the bank manages to over-accumulate coin it will forego the option to return it to the the provider and instead recycle it out to customers. “We’re just trying to be mindful of our usage and making sure that we’re not shipping anything out but going ahead and rolling it in-house and keeping it so we have it on hand,” she said.
With 30 F&M branches spread out over northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana the bank keeps all the coin on-hand to disperse to them when possible, Schmitz said.
Despite the shortage, the bank branches are not getting additional requests for coinage from customers, she said. Rather, some customers aware of the shortage have brought their accumulated change to the bank’s branches as a way to help. The branches provide change counting machines.
“Our personal customers that keep that change bucket at home, that save coin and stuff…that’s just one way we’re seeing people try to help the situation,” Schmitz said.
One reason for the coin shortage may be limited access to bank lobbies during the pandemic, where bank employees routinely count coins for customers, she said. Another reason might be that people are spending less money during the pandemic and using debit cards more often for no-contact payment.
“(Or) it could be just sitting in the hands of people rather than getting out,” Schmitz said. “We’re not using that change and getting it in circulation. When everybody stays home it all kind of holds.”
She said F&M Bank has taken the best approach possible to assist in the coin shortage, and continues to monitor the situation. “But things can always happen, and we’ll assess that situation when we come to it. But I think we’ve done a good job planning ahead.”
A Federal Reserve staff member who contacted the Expositor said three factors have contributed to low coin inventories:
• Deposits to depository institutions from the public, coin recyclers, and businesses, all of which are a major source of replenishing coins in circulation, have fallen to over half their previous amounts.
• In an effort to install safety measures to protect its employees from the coronavirus, the U.S. Mint has reduced coin production.
• Since the reopening phase of businesses the need for coins has risen to above-normal levels, resulting in an increase in Federal Reserve coin orders.
The spokesperson said, although the Federal Reserve doesn’t interact directly with consumers or retailers, depository institutions are being asked to remove barriers associated with deposits of loose and rolled coins to make it easier for people to return coins to circulation.
State Bank was informed last month its branches would be limited in the amount of coin they could order due to the national shortage. But Emily Matthews, the bank’s Banking Center sales manager, said clients’ needs are expected to be met.
“Since we receive loose coin from our customers, we have been able to meet the requests of other customers in need of rolled coin, as we roll all loose coin we take in on-site here at the branch,” she said.
Matthews said the bank was recently notified the Federal Reserve will form a limited U.S. Coin Task Force to work to reduce coin circulation disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.