The U.S. Transportation Department says it has paid or approved $2.6 billion in cash-for-clunkers transactions, or 90 percent of the $2.9 billion submitted, as accelerated payments to dealers continue.
A total of 534,598 claims for $2.3 billion were paid as of Sept. 18, said a posting today on the federal cars.gov Web site. An additional 76,775 submissions for $322.3 million have been approved but not paid yet.
A claim approval is the next-to-last step before the Treasury Department wires payment to the dealer's bank.
The latest figures show that Transportation may have to pay 146,828 claims for $615.1 million if it is to meet Secretary Ray LaHood's Sept. 30 deadline for payment of all properly filed submissions.
Many of these unpaid claims include those that were rejected and resubmitted. Claims that were rejected before the Aug. 25 filing deadline can be re-entered at any time.
"There's no question that DoT is pushing the 'pay' button significantly more as of late," said Bailey Wood, a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association spokesman. "They're likely to come very close to meeting the Sept. 30 deadline."
LaHood's spokeswomen did not immediately respond to a request for comment today.
A total of 681,426 deals for $2.9 billion were entered between July 27 and Aug. 25.
Earl Stewart, a Toyota dealer in North Palm Beach, Fla., said he expects to be totally reimbursed for his $1.2 million in claims either today or tomorrow.
As of Sept. 10, Stewart had been paid only $464,500 and was owed $774,500, he said.
"Somebody really fired the retro-rockets!" he said.
The Sept. 18 figures posted today show that $190.6 million in claims were paid or approved in the two days since LaHood said the agency would make extra efforts to process claims.
He said last week that to resolve potential problems more quickly, federal employees would be calling dealers rather than just e-mailing them with questions about individual claims.
A number of dealers have complained that their initial claim was rejected for one reason by one processor, then resubmitted and rejected for another reason by a different processor.
The reimbursement rate started accelerating in early September after LaHood doubled the staff that is processing dealer applications.