The U.S. House approved the “minibus” funding bill for the 2019 fiscal year to avoid a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. About $14 million has been set aside as a part of that package to pay congressional interns, a traditionally unpaid job. The Senate passed the measure Wednesday.
The House will be given $8.8 million to distribute across members’ office, and the Senate will be given $5 million.
The new budget for congressional interns will likely increase opportunities for students who come from families that cannot afford to bear the expenses associated with an unpaid internship.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced in August that it would pay intern classes in the future after 13 interns signed a letter protesting unpaid internships, which had limited nonwhite and working-class people in the applicant pool.
In a June 2017 report, Pay Our Interns, a nonprofit group advocating for more paid internships, found that more than 90 percent of House members don’t pay their interns. In the Senate, 51 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats paid their interns some kind of compensation.
Interns on Capitol Hill shared stories with CNN in early September about the sacrifices they made to be able to work on Capitol Hill, including skipping meals and walking miles in the rain. Congressional interns will spend an estimated $6,000 of their own money during an internship for housing, travel, food and other expenses, according to Pay Our Interns.
The new appropriations bill, if signed by President Donald Trump, would add an average of $20,000 for each House member and $50,000 for each senator in an allowance to pay office interns, Vox estimated. Most congressional offices employ several interns at a time.