New funds become available when an active coupon expires because it wasn't redeemed within 90 days of mailing. These expired funds go back into the coupon fund's account, thus a new coupon is born to a new household.
If you are on the DTV converter box coupon waiting list, then the wait is indefinite. It is contingent on how many coupons expire daily and where you are on the list. If 5,000 coupons expire, then those who put in the first 5,000 coupon requests will get a coupon.
Meredith Attwell Baker, acting administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said last week through a press release, “While we have reached a temporary limit on the number of coupons we can issue, we expect to be able to issue several million additional coupons during the course of the program, and we are working with Congress to make that happen.”
The NTIA has requested an additional $250 million in funds, but that funding has not been approved yet by Congress. The funds would create another 6.25 million coupons.
Updated on January 19, 2009: The House Appropriations Committee is asking for another $650 million for the coupon program. No word on when it could be approved.
Every week the NTIA, the agency that runs the converter box coupon program, releases statistics on the coupon program. As of January 14, 2009, the waiting list was just over two million coupons.
Rate of Coupon Requests Exceeds Expirations
In recent weeks the rate of coupon requests has exceeded the expiration rate, which is the opposite of the redemption rate. Since the coupon fund is limited to a maximum of 33.5 million redeemed coupons, a waiting list had to be created in order to keep track of applicants.
There are more than 11 million active coupons that haven't been redeemed and have yet to expire. Should all of these coupon owners use their coupon then the coupon program would be out of money pending additional funding from the government.
The chance that every active coupon will be redeemed is slim. Historically, the redemption rate is 52%, according to the NTIA. If that number holds true then there could be 7 million more coupons distributed to people on the waiting list over the span of the program.
That probably won't happen because the latest NTIA status reports show the redemption rate rising to a 60% level over the past few weeks. That would lower the expired coupons to about six million over the program's life.
The reality facing consumers is that the coupon program is stretched to its maximum capacity. The is no guarantee that anybody on the coupon waiting list will get a coupon.
My advice is if you need a coupon then apply for one today, because it's better to be on top of the waiting list rather than the bottom.