The Cash for Clunkers program is dying prematurely this coming Monday as it rapidly falls into administrative chaos. The New York Post reports in an excellent editorial that frustrated New York dealers put the pedal to the metal this week — in a race to exit the program: “About half the 425 members of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association say they dropped out. Why? Because Washington’s bureaucrats were able to send out only two percent of the money it owes.” The Post quotees Mark Schienberg, the association’s president: “It’s an administrative nightmare.”
Not to worry. Your United States Department of Transportation is apparently on the case. Yesterday a reader reported on a friend working as a GS-15 in one of the agencies in the Department of Transportation. His friend has answered an urgent request made by DoT for people to come in this weekend to help handle the backlog of paperwork for the Cash for Clunkers program.
The Post editorial, incidentally, makes the death of Cash for Clunkers a teachable moment for health care — excuse me, health insurance — reform. It’s titled “Clunker health care.”
We called the Department of Transportation for comment on our reader’s report yesterday and were asked to put our question in writing. We did. At last word yesterday afternoon, the DoT spokesman advised: “I put in for a response. Have a good evening.” I doubt they’ll be putting in overtime on the response to our query at the DoT this weekend, so we’ll go with our reader’s report pending further clarification.
UPDATE: The Washington Times reports this morning:
The U.S. Transportation Department, billions of dollars behind in paying “cash-for-clunkers” rebates, has hired private contractors and solicited volunteers from the Federal Aviation Administration and its own executive ranks to work overtime to clear the backlog.
Employees of the FAA’s air-traffic-control unit were asked to help, but the Transportation Department stressed Friday that essential safety personnel were not diverted from their duties.
A total of 1,200 workers, including about 300 contractors from Citigroup, the financial services giant, are now working seven days a week to review applications and reimburse auto dealers for rebates advanced to customers, officials said.
On Thursday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the program would stop taking applications Monday at 8 p.m. to provide an “orderly wind-down” and ease uncertainty about when funds would run out.
The National Automobile Dealers Association, which had endorsed the move, urged the Obama administration late Friday to extend the deadline because the program’s Web site was crashing.
“Many dealers are working round-the-clock to submit their ‘clunkers’ applications to meet the administration’s deadline,” the group said. “Despite these efforts, computer issues may prevent some ‘clunker’ applications from being submitted in time, through no fault of the dealers.”
The Washington Times story is “U.S. adds clerks to clear clunkers.” The Times story also quotes assistant to the secretary Jill Zuckman: “Federal employees are pitching in, working nights and weekends to get this taken care of, but it’s a two-way street. The [auto] dealers have to submit accurate and complete applications.”
Another reader directs us to this salary table and adds that “overtime is capped at time and a half for a GS-10 Step 1 ($39.90/hr). A GS-15 Step 1 makes $57.90/hr whether straight working hours or overtime.”