If you haven’t seen them yet, you probably will shortly — signs requesting the use of exact change, debit or credit for purchases all over the Gila Valley.
There’s a nationwide shortage of coins, yet another issue due to COVID-19
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell summed up the situation during a virtual hearing with the House Financial Services Committee last month.
“What’s happened is that, with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy has gotten all — it’s kind of stopped,” Powell said, according to news accounts of the hearing.
The US Coin Task Force, which was created by the Federal Reserve is working on the situation.
According to a press release issued on June 30 by the United States Federal Reserve, the task force is composed of representatives from multiple sources including the United States Mint, the American Bankers Association, as well as the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.The task force will also be working with the U.S. Mint, to maximize coin production.
Some locals are uncertain regarding the future of money.
“I use my debit card for the most part so I usually don’t have any cash on me,” Patrick Rodriquez said as he was shopping at a Safford gas station. “(But) if cash is no longer acceptable to use, then what’s next? A payment chip inserted into our wrist so we can make payments that way?”
Jenny Howard, owner of Ginaveve’s Market Place in Safford, said she is now thankful for the large coin collection her husband, Jon, has been accumulating throughout their marriage. Every day Jon would empty his pockets of change into a jar. Now Jenny is using the change he has collected for change at her store.
“We’ve brought a gallon Ziplock bag back to the store full of coins. For 16 years he has been collecting these jars of coins and now I’m glad,” Howard said.
For now, Ginaveve’s Market Place can give change back to its customers. However, if the time comes when the coin collection runs out, Howard said she will ask her customers what they want to do.
“What we’ll probably end up doing is ask the customer if they want to round up or round down to the nearest dollar. If they round up we’ll give it to the girls (waitresses) at the end of the day if we have extra,” she said.
She is prepared for her business to lose money if that is what the coin shortage comes to, Howard said.
Preston Owens, vice president and general manager of the Safford Ace Hardware store, said there hasn’t been any issues yet.
“The banks notified us that they were going to be limiting the exchange of coin and we took action necessary to have sufficient coin,” said Owens. “We haven’t experienced any problems as of yet.”
While some of smaller businesses do not have the option, the Bashas grocery store chain is utilizing the coin-to-cash dispensers which are already located in their stores as a coin source.
“We haven’t taken any additional precautionary measures at this time,” said Bashas spokesperson Ashley Schick. “We own those coin machines, so that’s why we’re able to do that versus utilizing a third party.”
The Safford Carl’s Jr. restaurant has signs out requesting the use of credit or debit cards, or exact payments when ordering food.
“The bank we go through is limiting the change, so it’s pretty much from the bank. We have no coin. There’s no change, I mean we have some, but it’s very short,” said Safford Carl’s Jr. manager Admari Lopez.
When someone comes into the restaurant without exact change, Lopez said the workers try to help the customer. However, the restaurant workers ask the customers to use smaller bills.
While many aspects of shopping at the Safford Walmart store have changed since the beginning of COVID-19, exact change is not a problem said store manager Brian Andrews.
“We are holding strong so far,” said Andrews.