President Barack Obama said today that there have not been "extraordinary delays" in the processing of dealers' cash-for-clunkers claims and that the government has to be scrupulous in reviewing them to avoid fraud.
"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," Obama said in a radio interview released by the White House.
The Department of Transportation said today that the cash-for-clunkers program would end at 8 p.m. Monday, noting that the $3 billion fund is nearly depleted.
Many dealers have complained that they're not getting paid on claims filed as far back as July 27, when the program kicked off in earnest.
Some dealers have said that they are owed government rebates that stretch into the millions of dollars for payments to customers and that the delays are causing cash-flow problems.
The administration announced today that $1.9 billion had been claimed in dealer filings. It has been surveying dealers to find out how many more deals have been done that have not been submitted.
Hundreds of millions of dollars remain in the program, a person knowledgeable about the program said today.
The law signed by Obama in June requires dealers to be paid within 10 days of their application for reimbursement. Yet many dealers have complained that they have been on the hook for more than three weeks.
As a result, a growing number of dealers are opting out of the program.
"There has not been extraordinary delays on the U.S. government's part," Obama said today. "I understand dealers want to get their money back as soon as possible, but the fact of the matter is this is a good-news story."
He said dealers will get paid for their sales but the government has to review their applications carefully.
"If we were just sending out checks where applications were incomplete and so on, first of all, we'd be breaking the law because there are statutes set up in terms of how this is supposed to go," Obama said.
He said that without the scrutiny of dealer applications, "you'd be asking me about scandals where there were a whole bunch of checks of taxpayer money being wasted, going out to people who hadn't actually bought cars."