From NBC's Winston Wilde
At a Mothers Against Drunk Driving event today along the Potomac waterfront, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood addressed the CARS, or Cash for Clunkers, program -- specifically the backlog of "clunker" rebates that have not yet been paid.
"Car dealerships are not complaining that they've sold 300,000 to 400,000 new automobiles!" LaHood said, adding, "The only criticism has not been from car buyers, or dealerships ... but from the sheer number of cars that have been sold; we haven't had the processing power" to handle all the reimbursement applications.
The Washington Post wrote this morning that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would be tripling its workforce to process the applications, and when asked about the timetable for this boost, LaHood signaled that it would be implemented immediately, but could not specify how long it would take for the backlog to be cleared up.
LaHood also put some of the responsibility on dealerships.
"We're adding people all the time," LaHood said. "We're adding people today." But "we also want to encourage car dealers to fill out the forms correctly."
LaHood repeated (or rather, kept repeating) that CARS was the best economic stimulus news received to date. "Showrooms that were empty and looked like funeral homes are now open," he said, adding, "This program is working. They're going to get the money; we have the money; Congress provided the money; they're going to get the money."