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Why are coins hard to find during the pandemic?

The Federal Reserve has seen a significant decline of coins in circulation because people are not spending them as regularly at businesses, many of which are either temporarily closed or not accepting cash.

Coins are still plentiful. In April, the U.S. Treasury estimated more than $47.8 billion were in the market, up by more than a billion dollars compared to last year.

But in recent months, people have not been using those coins at places like laundromats, banks, restaurants or shops because the businesses are closed, or people are not visiting them as often as they were before the pandemic.

“The typical places where coin enters our society have slowed or even stopped the normal circulation of coin,” said the Federal Reserve, which manages coin inventory, in a June statement.

Changes in giving to churches may also have played a role in the decrease of coin circulation. A LifeWay Research study conducted in May found that approximately 1 in 6 pastors reported their church added the option to give online since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Moreover, for many Southern Baptist congregations, “coin drives” are a large part of their summer children’s activities — activities that may have been canceled or postponed.

Dawn Rose, director of children’s ministries and benevolence at First Baptist Church in St. Clair, Mo., told Baptist Press that the church’s children will still engage in a coin drive, with some precautions in place in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rose said coins will be collected in baby bottles as part of Vacation Bible School. They then will be donated to a local homeless shelter to help clients pay for laundromat visits.

Rather than a weeklong event, the church’s VBS will be spread out over five separate Wednesday nights beginning July 29. In addition to the coin drive, it will include Bible study, missions presentations and crafts. However, it’s likely fewer children will participate than in previous years.

“We are about 25 percent under our normal attendance for worship and thus far we have about a 15 percent registration for our VBS,” Rose said.

Sales at restaurants, bars and gas stations dropped more than 40 percent in April compared with a year ago. Sales have since picked up, but some businesses remain shuttered in certain states, while others must operate at a limited capacity.

The Federal Reserve has encouraged banks to order only the coins they need and to make depositing coins easy for customers. One Wisconsin bank system offered its customers a $5 bonus for every $100 in coins they brought in to exchange at a branch.

The program was so successful, the bank suspended it after only a week.

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  • The Associated Press

    Baptist Press staff writer Tess Schoonhoven contributed to this report. From The Associated Press. May not be republished.

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