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Deadline for Clunkers Paperwork Extended to Noon Tuesday

Responding to pleas for help by the automobile dealers’ lobby, the U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday temporarily extended the deadline for car dealers to submit their paperwork for the popular Cash for Clunkers program.

The program, which was slated to close at 8 p.m. EDT on Monday, will now end at noon Tuesday.

“Due to an overwhelming demand on the … computer system, the deadline for automobile dealers to file applications for rebates has been extended until noon tomorrow. The deadline for actually completing sales remains 8:00 p.m. today,— the U.S. DOT announced in a statement Monday afternoon.

“Despite a large increase in the system’s capacity, the Web site was down temporarily this afternoon. Because of the temporary shutdown, dealers have been given extra time to file the necessary paperwork.—

Earlier on Monday, the National Automobile Dealers Association asked the White House to extend to Aug. 31 the deadline for its members to file the paperwork for the program, which gives car buyers up to $4,500 to trade in their gas guzzlers for more-fuel-efficient models.

“Dealers are reporting today that the clunkers’ computer system has crashed or was shut down for the third time since the announcement Thursday that the program would end tonight at 8 p.m.,— the group said in a statement. “Dealers across America risk millions of dollars in losses if they are unable to submit valid clunkers’ transactions because the government’s computer system is unavailable.—

There’s also some concern about the Transportation Department’s ability to accurately predict when the money will run out. Lawmakers gave the overall $3 billion subsidy a $2 billion infusion before departing for the August recess.

Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), who authored the underlying legislation that created the program, said in a conference call Monday that lawmakers would be on “sound footing— to allocate a third round of cash to close out the program.

“The most obvious [thing to do] would be to pass an additional appropriation,— Sutton said.

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