"She said that God had a plan for me," Russell says. "She told me to keep my faith and maintain positive thoughts."
And Russell's own optimistic streak took over. She believes that she'll be getting more contracts from the government perhaps as soon as this month. Agency employees are asking for contract proposals. Government contractors may be able to nab some revenue as agencies scramble to spend money that they will lose if they don't spend it by Sept. 30.
"Everyone says it's going to happen when this fiscal year ends," she says. "If I can get through this period now, then I'll be in more of a 'let's see what happens' state."
REVISING THE PLAN
Bob and Bonnie James were looking forward to a big jump in revenue this year at their company, Advanced Reading Concepts, which trains people who write reports and make presentations to read and analyze faster. They expected to get work from a growing number of federal agencies and planned to hire two staffers.
Then the budget cuts hit. Every one of the company's existing federal contracts, including work for the Army, Marines, Air Force and the government-funded Cherokee Nation Hospital, was canceled. One class was canceled the day before it was to start, and the government refused to pay $5,000 in the company's travel and other expenses.
"We were hearing, 'we have no training budget,'" Bob James says. At some agencies, the services his company provided were considered "fluff."
The company's clients include scientists, engineers and intelligence analysts in the military. Advanced Reading Concepts, based in Columbus, Ohio, also did work with the General Services Administration.
"The total value of the sequestration action on our business is $71,000 — tough for a small business to swallow," James says. That was 60 percent of the $120,000 in revenue the company had in 2012.
"Last year was a building year. We went after and got contracts with the GSA, and then added a person," James says.
The company expected to take in as much as $200,000 this year. Instead, the plunge in revenue has forced James to put off the planned hires and cut his office manager's hours by 20 percent.
Advanced Reading had focused on corporate customers until the recession began. Then corporations began canceling their contracts, and the Jameses began seeking out and signing contracts with the government.
"Now we're scrambling to get back into the corporate area as well," James says. He regrets focusing so much on government work in recent years. "Shame on us for not mounting a dual effort," he says.
The couple's personal life also has been affected because money is tighter. They're not going away on vacations and going to restaurants has become a rarity.
"We probably eat out 10 percent of what we used to," James says.
Like Russell, he's hoping that in the waning days of the government's fiscal year, some money will be freed up. Agency employees say they may get some permission to spend.
"We'll be trying to mine that and maybe we can salvage something out of the fiscal year 2013 budget," he says.
And he's working on proposals for the new fiscal year. Agencies want their employees trained if they can get the funding.
"All we can do is suck it up and hope we get through it, and hope that fiscal year 2014 can bring some sanity."
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