OK, it’s not millionaire money, but it’s a step.
Unpaid internships at the White House may have been a great way to get ahead in the workforce (and in politics), but they’re definitely not a great way to make money. However, that’s all about to change. The White House is finally going to start paying its interns, and while it may be long overdue, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Starting in fall 2022, White House interns will be paid approximately $750 per week, distributed in two chunks, according to a June 2 announcement from the White House. It’s a huge step for the program, which is also full-time and requires that interns arrange their own housing in Washington, D.C. — where average rent is over $2,200 a month, according to RentCafe. “Too often, unpaid federal internships have been a barrier to hardworking and talented students and professionals, preventing them from contributing their talents and skills to the country and holding them back from federal career advancement opportunities,” the White House said in a June 2 press release shared with Elite Daily.
In recent years, unpaid internships — across industries — have been criticized as limiting opportunities to people who can afford to work for free. Supporters say that they provide valuable work experience to students, while critics say they exploit unpaid student labor and exacerbate inequality. Legally, interns themselves are supposed to be the “primary beneficiary” of an unpaid internship — on the understanding it’s meant to be an educational opportunity.
“This significant milestone of paying White House interns will help remove barriers to equal opportunity for low-income students and first-generation professionals at the beginnings of their careers,” the press release added. “Those who receive internships at the White House — and who will be a significant part of the leadership pipeline across the entire federal government — [will] reflect the diversity of America.”
The funds to pay White House interns are being pulled from a congressional spending bill that President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2022. It’s a pretty big chunk of change — the funds allocated for intern pay amount to $4.5 million, and will cover interns in the White House Office and Office of the Vice President.
The White House move comes about three years after Congress started paying their interns as well, albeit, um, less. Starting in 2019, Capitol Hill interns began receiving a maximum of $1,800 a month in compensation — each House office has $20,000 annually for intern stipends, while Senate intern budgets depend on the size of the state.
So while the programs themselves have always offered plenty of valuable experiences and opportunities, they’re finally offering pay. After all, landlords don’t accept political insights as part of your rent check.