'Cash for Clunkers' Out of Gas, Ends Monday

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WASHINGTON -- If you have a clunker you're hoping to cash in for a new fuel efficient car, get down to your local dealer before the program screeches to a halt.

The wildly popular program officially ends Monday, but it's already over for many dealers who fear they won't get their "cash" from Washington.

It's been a wild ride -- Cash for Clunkers has been more successful than almost anyone imagined.

It spurred car sales and succeeded in getting more gas guzzlers off the road.

But even though it doesn't end until Monday, many dealers have already sputtered out of patience with the federal government and stopped participating.

"A very, very small amount of the transactions that have been done has actually been paid by the federal government," said Mark Schienberg with Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.

The National Automobile Dealers Association warns that "dealers who accept additional 'clunker' deals face a growing risk that they may not be reimbursed."

The government has received 457,000 sales worth $1.9 billion.

But less than half of those claims have been reviewed and just $140 million of the $3 billion program has been paid -- that's about seven percent.

"We have over 20 claims in we've seen no money at all yet. And that's a cash flow problem that everybody has and it's a shame that its happening," said Gary Anderson, sales manager at Chatham Ford in Chatham, Mass.

The program allows dealers to take $3,500 to $4,500 off the price of a new fuel efficient car in exchange for a clunker that's recycled.

Multiply that by a few dozen sales and dealers are left forking over hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to Uncle Sam, until their claims are reviewed and reimbursements mailed.

"Getting approvals, getting the money -- I think that's everybody's biggest gripe," said Ken Helmbright, manager of Serra Chevrolet in Miamisburg, Ohio.

The Obama administration says dealers will get their money, but it's going to take time as claims are carefully reviewed.

"There will be no car dealer that won't be reimbursed," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

If it's a problem, President Barack Obama says it's the kind of problem he welcomes in this economy.

"I think this is actually a high class problem to have, that we're selling too many cars, too quickly and there's some backlog in the application process. It is getting fixed," Obama said.

Chrysler and General Motors have started offering cash advances to financially-strapped dealers waiting on their checks.

The program ends at 8 p.m. on Monday. At that time, dealers must have all of their 13-page applications submitted to be considered for reimbursement.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.