Location closures, safety concerns and inconvenient new protocols aren’t the only issues complicating life for vending and amusement machine operators during the coronavirus pandemic.

A nationwide coin shortage caused by consumer hoarding and restricted activity by the U.S. Mint has brought additional burdens, as well as some benefits. The shortage has made it difficult for some operators to provide change customers expect, while others believe it has exacerbated the consumer’s adoption of cashless payment, a change most operators welcome due to the cost of handling cash.

Random interviews with vending and amusement operators found the extent of the shortage varies by region and the degree to which customer locations have been affected by COVID-19 lockdowns.

Many operators have not yet been affected, although this could change if the shortage continues.

Coin shortage arises
In the past few months, coin deposits from banks to the Federal Reserve have declined “significantly,” the central bank reported, while the U.S. Mint’s production of coins also decreased due to measures put in place to protect its employees from the coronavirus. Coin orders from depository institutions have increased as regions reopen, resulting in the Federal Reserve’s coin inventory being reduced to below normal levels.

On June 15, Federal Reserve Banks began to allocate available supplies of coins to depository institutions as a temporary measure.

The central bank also formed a task force to identify, implement and promote actions to reduce the consequence and duration of COVID-19 related disruptions to coin circulation. The recommendations of the task force, which includes the U.S. Mint, the American Bankers Association, the Independent Community Bankers Association, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, the retail industry and others, are due at the end of July.

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