Small businesses need coins

Because of COVID-19, many people are no longer using cash, which has caused a coin shortage.

It’s time to empty out the piggy banks to help small businesses.

Oklahoma banks are asking consumers to deposit their spare change at their local bank or coin-cashing machines as the pandemic-related shutdowns has created a coin shortage.

When COVID-19 restrictions went into place, establishments like retail shops, bank branches and laundromats — the typical places where coin enters society — closed and it significantly slowed the normal rate of coin circulation, said the Oklahoma Bankers Association in a press release. Consumers then migrated to shopping online or, if in person, using debit and credit cards to avoid physical contact associated with using cash. The coins that they would have received in change were then not being circulated back into the system.

“In the beginning of 2020, more than 4 billion coins were deposited — or recirculated — each month,” said Adrian Beverage, chief lobbyist for the Oklahoma Bankers Association. “Those numbers dropped to less than 2 billion beginning in April.”

As businesses are reopening, demand from merchants to stock their coins at higher levels is increasing, but a large number of coins remain with consumers. This is creating a critical issue because recirculated coins represent more than 80 percent of the supply, with the remaining amount being new coins produced by the mint, the association said.

“This isn’t isolated to Lawton or even Oklahoma,” said Mark Henry, Lawton market president for Liberty National Bank. “This is just an example of the unprecedented times we’re in. Many businesses have to shuffle change between locations while those businesses without multiple locations are probably struggling to make change.”

To help get more coins into circulation, some banks, including Fort Sill National Bank, are offering free coin machines to change your coins into cash. From now until Aug. 31, Fort Sill National Bank said customers and non-customers alike may take advantage of changing their coins for a quick and easy transfer to paper cash. Users can drop coins into the machine, located at 1420 W. Lee, and the machine will count the coins and dispense a receipt. Take that receipt to any Fort Sill National Bank retail banker and they will be happy to exchange it.

“There is adequate coin in the economy; however, the slowed pace of circulation means that a sufficient amount of coins are not readily available where needed,” Beverage said. “If you have spare change, we encourage all Oklahomans to check with their local bank to see if they are accepting rolled coins, use exact amounts when purchasing items, or deposit them in grocery store coin-cashing machines.”

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