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Economy looking up – uncertainty remains in Western Wyoming

◆ Coin shortage is not an issue at this point.

It’s a mixed bag of improvement and uncertainly as far as the economy in Western Wyoming is concerned.
SVI Media recently had the chance to talk with Bank of Star Valley President Rod Jensen about the economy and the effects of the pandemic on local businesses.

“Things are looking up from what they were in March and April when the world shut down,” said Rod Jensen, president of the Bank of Star Valley. “However, to sum up what I see there is a great deal of uncertainty out there. It’s just kind of a black cloud in the future. We don’t know where COVID is going to go, how it’s going to impact, what the governmental reactions will be.”

“It’s hard to plan for next month let alone next year,” Jensen continued. “Uncertainty does not work well with small businesses.”

According to Jensen, the good news comes in the form of the unemployment rate in Lincoln County.

“We weren’t as hard hit as some of the counties around us,” Jensen said. “In December we had 3.5 percent unemployment. We peaked at about 9 percent in April. As of May we had come down to 7.7 percent. This is fantastic relative to Teton County that peaked out at an 18 percent unemployment and is just moving into 15.”

“So the economy is reopening,” Jensen continued. “I think everyone is seeing the tourists and activity. It is hard to run a restaurant if you can only have so many seats. And there is all that uncertainty. But we are moving forward. I believe Lincoln County businesses are very strong and they will mitigate this and move through it.”

According to Jensen, businesses in Lincoln County and the State of Wyoming have benefited through the distribution of funds as part of the CARES act. Additional funding will be available in the coming weeks, he said.

Information about the state’s programs in relation to COVID funding for businesses can be found on the Wyoming Business Council website.

When it comes to the coin shortage affecting businesses across the nation, Jensen said soon it will be a non-issue.

“The coin shortage is kind of like toilet paper and I worry some about the rationality of human beings in crisis. We do weird things,” Jensen said. “As a matter of fact, there’s actually $400 million more in coin today than there was a year ago.”

The “shortage” is a result of supply disruption, Jensen said.

Many businesses that moved currency were closed. Mints slowed down production to protect employees. People were holding on to coins and cash and utilizing debit or credit cards for their payment transactions.
“There is not a shortage on coin dollar wise,” said Jensen. “But it is harder to get coin. The Fed actually rationed banks on the amount of coin they could order.”

As of July 20 the Fed increased the amount of coin banks could order, Jensen said.

“This is just a supply chain [issue],” said Jensen. “It is resolving itself and its actually resolving itself rather quickly.”