In search of quarters: Santa Maria residents, retailers and banks feeling pinch of national coin shortage

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It takes nine quarters for Barbara Brown to wash her laundry and eight more to dry her clothes at the laundromat located at her apartment complex on East Park Avenue near Hancock College. 

Brown, 86, is having a hard time finding quarters because of a national coin shortage, making it difficult to do laundry each week because the washer and dryer units only accept quarters. 

A Los Alamos native and retired teacher who taught grade school for 30 years at the Folsom-Cordova Unified School District, Brown relies mostly on her credit union-issued debit card for purchases, but like many, still needs coins for some things. 

Brown gets quarters from a local store and bank, which she doesn’t name because she keeps her supply secret. If Brown reveals the names, she said she’s afraid others will do the same and her sources will run out of quarters. 

Santa Barbara County confirmed an additional 77 COVID-19 cases Thursday along with one additional COVID-19 death, bringing the county’s death total to 68. 

“That would mess up my whole program,” Brown said. “I was successful, but I don’t know what will happen next time.” 

The coin shortage has gripped the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not necessarily a supply issue, but rather one of circulation, according to U.S. Mint Director Dave Ryder, who oversees the country’s coin manufacturing operations. 

Production of coins at mints decreased due to coronavirus safety measures enacted to protect employees, although it’s the lockdown restrictions on businesses that have impacted retail cash transactions the most. 

Ryder urged Americans to use their spare change in a public service announcement on Aug. 5, including depositing them at financial institutions or swapping them for bills at counting machines. 

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