Rebate program off to modest start

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Vic and Carla Bonner saw quite a few customers interested in the state’s appliance rebate program on Wednesday – a day before it officially got started.
By early Thursday afternoon, customer traffic had slacked off considerably.
“But it’s been picking up, and we’ve gotten a lot of phone calls,” said Vic, who owns Triangle Appliance Center with his wife.
The State Energy Efficiency Appliance Rebate Program, or SEEARP, officially kicked off at midnight Thursday, and some retailers, notably Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City, opened at 12:01 a.m.
The Bonners stuck to their regular 9 a.m to 5 p.m. schedule and said they expected interest to increase over the weekend.
“There are a lot of people looking for appliances, and there’s a lot of interest in the rebates,” Vic said.
Depending on the appliance, rebates range from $50 to $750. Consumers who buy a rebate-qualified, Energy Star-rated appliance will receive a prepaid Visa card within 30 days after submitting the proper documentation.
To reserve a rebate, consumers must call (877) 304-4451 or visit mississippirebate.com.
The number will be manned Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. But the website is available 24/7.
At Cowboy Maloney’s, nearly 20 people were waiting outside before the store opened a little past midnight Thursday.
Store Manager Robert Hughes said he was pleasantly surprised by the turnout and said most to the customers had been taken care of by 1 a.m.
Another small rush of customers hit the store between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.
“We’re going to have to figure out when to get some sleep,” he said.
Among the shoppers were Frankie Crump and Raven Parker, who were looking for a refrigerator, a washer and a dryer.
“We’ve been looking for a fridge for a while,” Crump said. “We read about the program in the paper, so we waited until today to see what there was.”
Don and Nell Wilson drove over from Calhoun City to get a new dishwasher that Don had picked out on Wednesday.
“He did a good job,” Nell said, adding that he had called her on her cell phone to make sure it was the one she wanted for their new home. “We needed a new one.”
The Wilsons will get $100 back, but they said they hadn’t decided what they would do with it.
Pleased with the results
By late Thursday afternoon, SEEARP had a little more than $2.1 million left, with about 10 percent of the available rebate money reserved. And while about $2.8 million was set aside for the program via the Recovery Act, a little more than $2.4 million is actually available for the rebates. Administrative costs had to be taken from the original amount.
Still, that leaves plenty of money available for consumers.
And despite the modest start, officials say they’re pleased with the results so far. As of 5 p.m., Thursday, more than 2,300 reservations totaling $238230 had been made.
“Today has exceeded my expectations, thanks to program promotion by our retail and utility partners and the media coverage the program has received this week,” said Karen Bishop, stimulus bureau manager for the Mississippi Development Authority, which is administering the program. “We have had no reports of technical issues on either the website or call center today. We’ve had a very successful launch day and I know our retail partners are looking forward to a busy weekend.”