U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar (MN-05) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) led 28 members of Congress today in requesting that the House of Representatives make paid interns permanently eligible for telework. Current House guidelines only allow paid House interns to telework in the event of disaster, pandemic, or other emergency. The lawmakers’ letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Committee on House Administration notes that permanently allowing interns the opportunity to serve remotely would ensure greater access to internships for individuals for whom the cost, time, or physical requirements of moving to Washington, D.C. have been a barrier.
“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,” wrote the lawmakers. “Removing the emergency circumstances requirement for intern telework would improve accessibility to help make our institution more reflective of the communities we were sent to serve in Congress.”
As the country responded to COVID-19, the House of Representatives made all paid House interns eligible to telework during the pandemic. This decision has not only been instrumental in many offices’ continuity of operations, but it has also expanded access to the internship program. Making paid interns eligible for telework in non-emergency situations would allow Members of Congress to keep their internship programs open to as many students as possible, including those historically denied access.
A 2019 study on the distribution of interns in the House of Representatives found that Latinx individuals made up only 5 percent of interns and Black individuals made up 13 percent of interns. According to the study, white individuals made up 67 percent of House interns.
The lawmakers’ effort to increase access to Congressional internships is endorsed by Pay Our Interns Action, Inclusive America, Demand Progress, College to Congress, Advocacy Blueprints, MENTOR National, MENTOR Washington, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Issue One.
The letter was signed by U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, André Carson, Gwen S. Moore, Barbara Lee, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Steve Cohen, Peter A. DeFazio, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Paul D. Tonko, Sanford D. Bishop Jr., Earl Blumenauer, Ayanna Pressley, Seth Moulton, Kaialiʻi Kahele, Mondaire Jones, Dean Phillips, Ritchie Torres, Karen Bass, Albio Sires, David Trone, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Vicente Gonzalez, Chrissy Houlahan, Jahana Hayes, Suzan K. DelBene, Gerald E. Connolly, and A. Donald McEachin.