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Government isn’t working to usher in a ‘cashless society’

July 24, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: There is no coin shortage. Coins get recirculated, they don’t just disappear. They’re trying to usher in a cashless society.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The coins aren’t being circulated because businesses are closed and sales are down during the pandemic. The government isn’t pushing the U.S. into a cashless society, either. The U.S. Mint is actively producing more coins to alleviate the short supply.

THE FACTS: Posts circulating widely on Facebook are suggesting that the shortage of coins in the U.S. is a hoax because it doesn’t make sense for the currency to have “disappeared.” The posts suggest a larger conspiracy is at play to usher us all into a “cashless” era.

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That’s not the case. No one has said the coins disappeared.

The Federal Reserve, which manages coin inventory, has explained that the supply chain is severely disrupted by the pandemic.

Coins are not readily available at some grocery stores, banks and other shops because they are not circulating as they normally would because of the pandemic.

Many businesses are closed, not operating at full capacity or, in some cases, opting not to accept cash because health officials have advised that cashless payments may help slow the spread of coronavirus. Sales are also down, with purchases at restaurants, bars and gas stations plummeting by 40% in April compared to a year ago, for example.

“With establishments like retail shops, bank branches, transit authorities and laundromats closed, the typical places where coin enters our society have slowed or even stopped the normal circulation of coin,” the Federal Reserve said in a June statement.

Federal agencies are working to alleviate the problem to get coins moving again through the U.S., contrary to Facebook posts that allege a “cashless society” looms.

The Federal Reserve has asked banks to only order the coins they need and to make depositing coins easy for customers. It also put together a task force of retail, bank and armored cash carrier leaders to brainstorm ways to normalize coin circulation again.

The U.S. Mint, meanwhile, is moving at full speed to mint more coins, while minimizing its employees risk to COVID-19 exposure, the agency’s spokesman Michael White told The Associated Press in an email.

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The Mint produced nearly 1.6 billion coins last month, White said, and is on track to average about 1.65 billion per month for the rest of the year. That’s up from an average of 1 billion coins per month last year, he added.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536