Nonprofit helps secure funding to pay Capitol Hill interns

Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Congressional interns are finally getting paid for their work on Capitol Hill.

An organization called College to Congress spent months lobbying lawmakers for the new funding and guidelines to provide pay for the interns, and that work paid off with a change earlier this year.

College to Congress found Audrey Henson was a former unpaid intern herself and is encouraged that Congress is providing money to support the interns while they work at the Capitol.

“DC—as many people know—it’s super expensive. It’s really burdensome,” Lehigh University intern Reecha Patel said.

Patel is a first-generation American now working as a congressional intern, something that could have put a strain on her family.

“My dad owns a business, but things happen. It’s not very ideal at times,” she added. “My mom is unemployed, so coming from that, they really wanted me to be successful and they motivated me, no matter what, to pursue my passion.”

For more than 20 years, Congress hasn’t provided money to pay interns, causing major financial hurdles for college students seeking an opportunity.

“In 1994, whenever they did the budget cuts, that was taken away,” Henson said.

But, thanks in part to lobbying efforts by College To Congress, funding to pay congressional interns was added back to the federal budget last fall.

The measure provided $20,000 to each House office and $50,000 to each Senate office to pay interns.

Through private donations, Henson’s group is also ensuring interns like Patel can get up to $26,000 in scholarships to help cover costs like transportation, housing and meals.

“I’m very happy to just have this experience and see that there are dedicated people here, motivating me to come back,” Patel said.

Henson says the changes should put internships within reach of students with more diverse backgrounds.

“It’s incredibly white and affluent,” Henson said. “I think that everyone is realizing that if we want to change that, we have to start from the bottom. We have to start from that feeding issue.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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