The US Mint has reduced the supply of gold and silver coins to third-party distributors as the relentless coronavirus pandemic slows down production even of regular change.
The Mint’s New York-based facility is evaluating risks to employees to curb the spread of the virus, thereby slowing production for the next 12 to 18 months, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing internal documents.
The nation’s coin maker, which is in charge of producing new money to replenish supply, warned last week that covid-19 had resulted in fewer pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in circulation.
Typically, coins get circulated daily. But as retailers shut down to prevent the spread of the virus, coins in circulation disappeared and orders for newly-minted coins increased.
The Mint is on track to produce 1.65 billion coins per month for the rest of the year. By comparison, the government produced an average of 1 billion coins per month in 2019.
While the Treasury Department’s agency is working on addressing the issue, it has asked shoppers to help out too.
“We ask that the American public start spending their coins, depositing them, or exchanging them for currency at financial institutions or taking them to a coin redemption kiosk,” the Mint said in the release. “The coin supply problem can be solved with each of us doing our part.”
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell spoke about the coin shortage during a virtual hearing with the House Financial Services Committee in June.
Powell explained that since more people have been staying home, shopping online and avoiding physical currency because of the pandemic, the normal flow of coins through the economy has been severely interrupted.
The US Mint has been producing commemorative and investment coins, made of gold, silver, platinum and palladium, at a lower capacity since late April, when the West Point facility reopened.
“We believe that this environment is going to continue to lead to some degree of reduced capacity as West Point struggles to balance employee safety against market demand,” the Mint said in a document seen by Bloomberg.
The agency noted that, as it implements measures to prevent covid-19 from spreading among its employees, production of every kind of coin will be affected for the next 12 to 18 months
Created by Congress in 1792, the US Mint became part of the Department of the Treasury in 1873. As the nation’s only manufacturer of money, the Mint is responsible for producing coins and bills for the country to conduct trade and commerce.