By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Cash for Clunkers program has been a huge success, but charities across the nation and right here in the metro, fear it could do more harm than good.

Organizations like the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and the Oklahoma Council of the Blind depend on donated 'clunkers' for various reasons, but they fear the deals offered by the government's Cash for Clunkers program will put the brake on donations.

"We're working with 42 clients right now who need a car," said Timothy O'Conner, director of the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

O'Conner says the Catholic Charities gives donated vehicles to families or individuals who are struggling to make ends meet and can't afford a used car or truck.

The Salvation Army sells its donated vehicles at auction sites, and uses the money raised for operational costs and rehabilitation programs.

"We want counseling, food on the table, everything in place to serve the people," said Captain Henry Hudson of the Salvation Army chapter in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

President Barack Obama signed into law Friday a measure tripling the budget of the $1 billion incentive program that has drawn big crowds to formerly deserted showrooms. The Senate on Thursday passed the legislation extending the two-week-old program into Labor Day and preventing it from running out of money.

"Now more American consumers will have the chance to purchase newer, more fuel-efficient cars and the American economy will continue to get a much-needed boost," Obama said in a statement hailing the vote.

The extra money, approved by the House last week, is aimed at helping automakers and spurring the economy while removing the some of the least fuel-efficient vehicles from the road. Last week, the government said the program's funding would be exhausted by Friday if it was not replenished.

Dealers said the additional money would help them maintain a sales pace they haven't seen in months and continue to benefit from heavy publicity surrounding the rebates. Car dealers saw an uptick in sales in July, when Ford Motor Co. achieved its first year-over-year sales increase since November 2007.

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