WASHINGTON -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today said his department will make extra efforts to pay all cash-for-clunkers claims on time by Sept. 30 but revised downward the department's updated reimbursement figures.
The Transportation Department has paid or approved 565,690 applications for $2.38 billion as of today, the agency said in a statement.
At a news conference yesterday, LaHood said that $2.5 billion had been paid. Asked about the discrepancy today, he told reporters: “Yesterday, I was told $2.5 billion. It will be at $2.5 billion very soon.”
To meet the Sept. 30 deadline, LaHood said department employees would be calling dealers rather than just e-mailing them with questions about individual claims to resolve potential problems more quickly.
“We're going to give the benefit of the doubt to every application,” he said to applause from the National Automobile Dealers Association's annual Washington conference. “We want to pay these people.”
LaHood did not say how many applications had been paid and how many were approved.
Approval of a submission is the next-to-last step before payment. A number of dealers have complained that their filings have been approved but not yet paid.
Dealer resubmissions following rejections now total $251.2 million, the department statement said. Claims under review amount to $232.2 million.
Dealers have filed a total of 681,426 claims for $2.8 billion, the agency said. The number of submissions is 424 lower than previously reported because of transactions canceled by dealers, it said.
LaHood has set a Sept. 30 target date for payment of all properly submitted claims.
NADA said today that the government's figures are more reliable than its own.
“They have the technology in place to report actual dollar figures,” said NADA spokesman David Hyatt.
As a result, NADA will discontinue its weekly survey of dealers for the status of their reimbursements, he said.
As for LaHood's appearance at the conference today and his assurances, Hyatt said, “We're pleased with the way the secretary has responded. You've got to appreciate his hands-on approach.”
In a question-and-answer session after LaHood's speech, Larry Brown, an Ottawa, Ill., dealer, said that he had not been paid on a single one of his 22 claims. He held up a green file folder containing his submissions.
“Bring that up here, please,” LaHood said. “It will get done.”
LaHood drew praise from Brown and a number of other dealers.
“This guy's done a helluva job,” said John Pohanka, chairman of the Pohanka Automotive Group in Marlow Heights, Md.