Feb 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Lawmakers call for congressional interns to have work-from-home option

US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and Rep. Pramila Jayapal at a town hall in Minneapolis, MN.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) led 28 members of Congress in requesting that the House allow paid interns the option of working work from home.

Why it matters: The move aims to increase access to job applicants burdened by relocating to Washington, D.C., but who are otherwise qualified.

The big picture: Congressional internships are a direct pipeline to staff positions and the pool of interns has historically been limited to students or recent college graduates who can afford to move to D.C. for a limited time on an entry-level salary.

  • Congress, for the first time, passed legislation in 2018 that provided funding to pay legislative interns.

What's they're saying: "Allowing interns to serve remotely, including using House-issued devices, would ensure access to these internships for otherwise qualified candidates for whom the cost, time or physical requirements of moving to Washington, D.C. has been prohibitive," the letter states.

  • "As we work to make House internships more just and accessible to Black, Indigenous, and people of color, students with disability, first-generation students, and working-class students, we must actively work to increase the flexibility and resources behind the internship program."
  • Current legislation allows interns to work from home only in the event of a disaster, event or other emergency.

Lawmakers referenced a 2019 study by sociologist James Jones, as part of their motivation in making the request. Jones' report highlighted a lack of diversity among congressional interns.

  • White individuals made up 67% of House interns, Hispanic people made up 5% and Black individuals made up 13% of interns, while Asian or Pacific Islanders made up 11% of House interns in 2019, according to the study.
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