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National coin shortage creates problems for Northeast Ohio coin-operated laundromats

Posted at 10:20 PM, Aug 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-03 08:03:07-04

CLEVELAND — Owners of laundromats in Northeast Ohio are dealing with an unexpected problem due to the coronavirus pandemic— a coin shortage.

Before the pandemic, Charles Pappadakes, managing partner at Katie’s Clean and Green Laundry Center in Lakewoood, used to go to the bank every morning and get $500 worth of coins.

Now the bank limits him to $50 in quarters a day.

“I think it’s just one more aggravation point with this COVID situation,” said Pappadakes.

It’s an unusual problem that’s popped up all over the country. The problem is not that there are fewer coins. The U.S. Treasury Department said there are slightly more coins in circulation right now than there were last year, but many of the coins are sitting idle, going unused as people opt for a more contact-free method of credit and debit cards.

"People aren't using as much cash as they used to before the pandemic, just not to transfer money and coins to cut down on germs and what not,” said Robin Turner, Cleveland resident who frequents laundromats.

A large chunk of coin inventory is stuck in cash registers of businesses that have yet to reopen. The Wash House and Cafe on Lorain Avenue in Cleveland has seen as a 12% increase in people using credit cards to pay for their loads of laundry, but that affects their bottom line.

"We're paying a little bit more in credit card fees of course but that's part of doing business in a laundry mat, thank God we're still in business,” said Eli Fernandez, owner of The Wash House and Cafe.

At Katie’s Clean and Green Laundry Center, they used to let anyone come in to exchange coins, whether they were using the machines or not, but now they have now limited it to customers only.

"I've had several people, especially since the shortage, that have come up to me and go, you're not gonna get rid of the quarters are you, and I go no, they're here to stay, we're not getting rid of them,” Pappadakes said.

Federal officials are asking Americans to start spending their coins to get the supply of currency moving again.

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