Americans for Common Cents (ACC) conducts research and provides information to Congress and the Executive Branch on the value and benefits of the penny.

Coronavirus Impacts Flow of Money

Temporary Coin Shortages Expected to Fade as Businesses Reopen

June 23, 2020 05:34 PM Eastern Daylight Time

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In testimony before a House Congressional Committee last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that we may see spot coin shortages around the country as a result of the state economic shutdowns that began in March 2020 to stem the spread of COVID-19. The stay-at-home orders and closing of stores and restaurants interrupted the normal flow of cash and coins; slowing the economy and the movement of coins as well.

“While Chairman Powell said any spot shortages of coin would be temporary, merchants should not take advantage of the situation by rounding prices or denying consumers the right to use cash,” said Americans for Common Cents (ACC) Executive Director, Mark Weller. Weller’s group promotes the penny and consumers’ right to use cash when making purchases.

While COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the global economic and social landscape, including how we purchase goods, price rounding is bad for consumers and the economy. Weller describes the extent of rounding’s detrimental impact in that “rounding affects purchases from the gas pump to the grocery store.”

Although the use of cash is safe, the current pandemic led to an uptick in contactless payment. “Central banks around the world and medical experts confirm that coins are safe to use in times of the pandemic,” according to Coinstar CEO, Jim Gaherity. Throughout the course of the pandemic, Coinstar kiosks in grocery stores and other retail locations have been, and continue to be, fully operational.

According to the International Currency Association, there is no evidence of cash transmitting the virus. ACC’s Weller added, “the copper covering the penny is antimicrobial, it kills bacteria and viruses.” While copper is not a COVID-19 cure-all and the topic deserves more study, past research has shown its promise for reducing contamination in public transit, restaurants, and health care facilities.

Several consumer and nonprofit groups have also rallied around the idea that consumers should have multiple ways to make payments be that in cash, with credit and debit cards, or via contactless payments. In response to some businesses banning the use of cash, and in recognition of the harm this causes, members of Congress have introduced legislation to require retailers to accept cash payments. Congressman Don Payne’s (D-NJ) bipartisan Payment Choice Act (H.R. 2650) will ensure that people are never turned away from a store simply because they do not have a credit or debit card.

As our nation continues to grapple with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, rounding prices and denying customer use of cash entirely are not constructive steps towards overcoming these challenges.

About Americans for Common Cents

Americans for Common Cents is a broad-based coalition of business and charitable organizations dedicated to keeping the penny. ACC was formed in 1990 in response to Congressional threats to eliminate the one-cent coin (