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Coin shortage? A look at the lack of change in Southwest Florida

coin circulation issue
Posted at 6:14 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 18:18:17-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Businesses in Southwest Florida are struggling to keep coins in their registers.

Busy Mamas Laundry, in Fort Myers, told Fox 4 the lack of change is something they see first hand.

“We fill our changers up twice a week and we have two of them,” said owner Mary Brunk.

Unfortunately, it's a scenario they are familiar with.

"In July of 2020, we had to buy back $300 worth of quarters we had just deposited so that will give you an indication,” said Brunk.

This time around, the Federal Reserve says it’s not a shortage, but instead a lack of coins circulating throughout the country.

In fact, the central bank of the United States says they produced over 20% more coins last year than they did in 2019.

Still, businesses like Busy Mamas are seeing the impacts first hand.

“Apartment laundry that does not have changers and still use quarters they are going out of here because they can’t find another source to get these quarters they are not in circulation like they were before,” said Brunk.

Tom Smythe a professor of finance at Florida Gulf Coast University says the problem comes from businesses such as banks that closed their doors for good during the pandemic.

“Because of the uneven reopening of the economy across the country, you may have banks and businesses that still have coins from a year ago, and people can’t really access it,” said Smythe.

A problem that has businesses like fast-food restaurants and retailers in Southwest Florida demanding customers pay with a card or exact change.

Forcing people with cash to find a solution, Busy Mamas doesn't want to be a part of.

“We have a lot more $20's going through the changers now than we did before and that indicates to us that people are getting $20's changed and using them somewhere else,” said Brunk.

In Southwest Florida, the start of the snowbird season could mean more people needing more coins.

“If those people aren’t bringing coins and they probably aren’t, and yet they get down here and expect coins or using more cash... that could lead to a more substantial shortage,“ said Smythe.

The Federal Reserve says as more businesses reopen, more coins will flow back into retail spaces, eventually balancing things out.

Regardless, Busy Mamas says they will be integrating cashless machines into their business.

Ensuring they are ready for if the money scale ever decides to tip again.

"We’ve got to because this coin issue probably isn’t going away,” said Brunk.