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Some San Diegans struggle to find quarters amid nationwide coin shortage

Posted at 5:54 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 21:40:52-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — You may have seen signs in front of businesses asking customers for card transactions or cash only with exact change. That's because the coronavirus pandemic is causing a national coin shortage.

Money is money. But right now, paper is not as valuable as metal for Pacific Beach resident, Michele Pagnano.

"I go through a good amount of change on a regular basis," Pagnano said.

He uses his apartment complex's coin laundry about three to four times a week. So when he was running low on coins, he headed to the bank, like he always does.

"Three weeks ago, I was at Wells Fargo," Pagnano said. "I wanted to get $40 worth [of quarters] so that it could hold me over for a couple of weeks. And the teller says she could only give me $20. I went around to a few more banks, and they all had that same practice in place."

There's a reason for that. The Federal Reserve says there is a coin shortage caused by the pandemic. Weeks ago, the US Mint reduced coin production to protect its employees from the virus. Plus, with more people shopping online or using touch-less payment methods, cash, especially coins, is not circulating like it use to.

"If there's none in circulation, it becomes a toilet paper panic again, just like at the beginning of the pandemic," Pagnano said.

But Pagnano says he was not going to give up on clean clothes that easily.

"I even went around to a couple of laundry mats to try to get some quarters from them," Pagnano. "None of them were allowing you to take the quarters off the premises. One guy even told me that he only had $50 in circulation for their entire laundry mat."

He also went on Facebook to see if any of his neighbors can do a swap. He even contacted his landlord for help.

"I already reached out to the landlord and asked if we could buy back the quarters that are already in the machines," Pagnano said. "Hopefully, that is something we can make happen to alleviate the problem, at least for our complex."

His last resort? On a whim, Pagnano says he walked into San Diego County Credit Union, which is just down the street from his home. To his surprise, he got lucky.

"We got the million-dollar quarters right here!" Pagnano laughed.

The Federal Reserve believes the coin shortage will be resolved, and more coins will be back in circulation once more of the economy reopens.