Across the government, agencies were making big-ticket purchases — buying things with this year’s money that could be used next year.
On Monday, VA paid $27,000 for an order of photographs showing sunsets, mountain peaks and country roads. They would go into a new center serving homeless veterans in Los Angeles; a spokeswoman described the art as “motivational and calming, professionally designed to enhance clinical operations.”
On Tuesday, the USDA bought $127,000 worth of toner cartridges (“end of year,” the order explained). VA spent another $220,000 on artwork for its hospitals.
On Wednesday, the Coast Guard paid $178,000 for cubicle furniture, replacing high-walled cubes with low-walled ones to improve the air flow in a large office area.
“Other higher-priority projects were not able to be executed, so they moved [money] to this lower-priority project” before the year’s end, said Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Diaz. “The money was going to be spent anyway.”
On Thursday, VA was buying art again. It spent $216,000 on artwork for a facility in Florida. In all, preliminary data showed that the agency made at least 18 percent of all its art purchases for the year in this one week. One-sixth of the buying in one-52nd of the year.
On Friday, the end was in sight.
“I feel good. Four days, right?” said Corey Forshee, a contracting officer at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Forshee was part of a team at Andrews that had done its best to beat the September rush.
The commander, trying to avoid a last-week rush, set his own deadline of Sept. 20. The pizza came early. The chaplain’s office visited early (“use it or lose it” season is traditionally stressful enough to get the chaplain involved). The buying was nearly done.
Now, they had to wait for the last act of the last act: the “fall-out money.”
This was cash that other parts of the Air Force had not been able to spend. It would be redistributed to this office at the last minute.
“We’re waiting for money for that,” Forshee said, going down a list of unfunded projects. A roof for the workout area. A bathroom renovation. “Just waiting for money,” he repeated.
Across Washington, everybody had to wait.
“It’s going to come down to Monday,” said Richer, at ImmixGroup. On Friday, he said his sales had been about equal to last year’s, despite worries about sequestration.
On Monday, Richer’s people will sell until midnight. Then they will keep selling. “Money rolls across the continent,” the feds say. Cash not spent in Washington might be spent by federal offices in California in the three hours before it is midnight there.
When it is midnight in California — 3 a.m. in Washington — they will keep on. There are federal offices in Hawaii, after all. And it will still be three hours until midnight there.