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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — As if COVID-19 wasn’t already being blamed for just about everything going awry these days, add a nationwide coin shortage to the list.


This sign on the door of a local Kwik Trip asks patrons to use exact change, if possible, because of the national coin shortage, or use cards. (WKBT photo)

The scarcity has prompted some of the more than 600 Kwik Trip and Kwik Star stores to post signs asking patrons who pay in cash to do so with exact change, if possible. If not, could they please use their Kwik Rewards debit or credit cards or, presumably, other credit cards.
Although no corporate representatives of Kwik Trip could comment on the shortage, headquarters reportedly emailed stores about the problem this week.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged the paucity of pennies and  blaming the pandemic’s mass closures of businesses.
“What’s happened is that, with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy … it’s kind of stopped,” Powell told lawmakers this week.
“We’ve been aware of it,” he said. “We’re working with the Mint to increase supply. We’re working with the Reserve banks to get the supply to where it needs to be.”
The pandemic wielded a double-edged sword to disrupt the supply pipeline. The Fed faced a significant drop in coin deposits from banks and other institutions , even as the Mint decreased production in its efforts to protect employees, the Fed website says.
State Bank in La Crosse, like other banks, received an alert from the Fed about the shortage.
But State Bank retail director Jill Hamilton said the shortfall hasn’t affected State Bank’s locations because it uses a vendor to supply its rolled coins instead of ordering directly from the Fed.
The vendor stores State Bank supplies in a vault it taps when it needs coins, Hamilton.
“It might be affecting larger banks,” Hamilton said, adding that the Fed categorizes banks as small, medium, large and extra large.
In a penny pinch, the Fed limits banks’ quotas to their historical ordering patterns.
The Fed said as much in a notice posted on its website notifying banks about rationing that began Monday. It also suggested that banks lift restrictions on customers’ depositing rolled and loose coins so the coffers will fill faster.
Officials at other local businesses contacted, including Festival Foods and Altra Federal Credit Union, weren’t available to discuss whether they are feeling the squeeze.
Granted, the COVID Coin Crunch makes the Great Mulch Shortage that afflicted the Eau Claire, Wis.-based Menards and other garden suppliers in June 2015 look like chump change, but some folks still find it an inconvenience.