WASHINGTON -- Dealers in four states have been reimbursed by the government for 5.7 percent of their cash-for-clunkers transactions, the latest dealer association surveys show.
Polls in North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana and Alabama last week found that dealers had been reimbursed for 2,701 of the 47,693 transactions submitted for rebates.
Its like watching paint dry, said Donald Hall, president of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, which conducted one survey. The government doesnt see the sense of urgency in paying money back to dealers.
The separate member surveys by state dealer associations were conducted on Aug. 26 and 27, after the Transportation Departments Aug. 25 deadline for filing of dealer claims.
The data is far from comprehensive, covering only about 7 percent of the 690,114 deals completed under the $3 billion program.
But it offers the most complete, up-to-date information available on dealer reimbursements.
Both the White House and the Transportation Department have repeatedly declined to answer questions about how many dealers have been reimbursed and when the rest will be paid.
Transportation spokespersons would not comment today on the survey findings.
The results show only incremental increases in dealer payments over previous weeks despite a surge in the number of employees who are processing dealer applications.
In North Carolina, reimbursement was made on 6.6 percent of deals as of Aug. 26, up from 1.7 percent two weeks earlier.
The results are significantly better but still horribly dismal, said Robert Glaser, president of the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, which conducted the survey.
The administration has ramped up the hiring and transfer of employees to work on dealers claims, increasing the number from about 350 to more than 2,000 in recent weeks.
The figures also suggest widespread breaches by the Obama administration of the cash-for-clunkers law that the president signed in June. The law requires the government to pay dealers within 10 days of their claim submissions.
From July 27 to Aug. 25, the program accepted dealer applications for reimbursement of $3,500 and $4,500 vouchers given to customers.
Both Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood have assured dealers that they eventually will be paid though they havent offered a time frame in which that will happen.
The problem was that you didnt have a bureaucracy set up and had to create one overnight, said Thomas Dart, president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Alabama. I personally think these problems are understandable.
The Alabama groups Aug. 27 survey found that reimbursement was made on 6 percent of transactions.
The administration released dealer-reimbursement data only one time, on Aug. 20, and the information created confusion.
The Transportation Department issued an announcement that it had approved $140 million in payments to dealers. On the same day, a senior administration official told reporters that the government had already paid out $145 million to dealers.
It is not clear whether the official meant that the money had been approved for payment, as Transportation said, or had actually been paid. Many dealers have complained that though their submissions were approved, they havent been paid.
The White House has declined to answer questions about this discrepancy.