For the nation, the answer to "Got any change?" has become more complicated. There are coins around, though fewer than before the pandemic, and they're not necessarily in circulation. "With the partial closure of the economy, the flow of funds through the economy has stopped," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Congress last week, USA Today reports. Like other employers, the US Mint cut production to protect its workers from catching the coronavirus. The other issue is the location of the coins. Once retailers shut their doors, coins that would've gone toward a refreshing pack of mints or Big Gulp started piling up in consumers' jars and drawers at home. And people were unable to get rid of their unwanted change in coin-sorting machines, per NPR. "The flow of coins through the economy ... kind of stopped," Powell said.
To deal with the problem, the Federal Reserve is stepping in to ration coins distributed to banks. One bank in Tennessee that usually goes through 400 to 500 rolls of pennies a week will now receive only 100 rolls. "You think about all your grocery stores and convenience stores and a lot of people that still operate with cash," the banker said. "They have to have that just to make change." The Weigel's convenience store chain put up signs asking cutomers to use exact change and offering to buy coins, per WATE. One House member said stores that run out of coins might have to round up or down "in a time when pennies are the difference between profitability and loss." Powell said the Federal Reserve is working with the Mint, and he thinks the problem will only be temporary. As the economy reopens, he said, "we are starting to see money move around again." (Read more coins stories.)