The White House is lifting a longtime barrier of entry to many young Americans as it announces it will pay its interns starting this fall.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris are announcing the launch of the White House Internship Program and that, for the first time in history, White House interns will be paid. The first session will commence in Fall 2022,” a White House statement shared exclusively with CNN said.
The interns will be paid $750 per week via a stipend, according to the “Frequently Asked Questions” page of the White House’s internship website. Interns are expected to work at least 35 hours per week, the website said, bringing the hourly rate to a maximum of $21.43 per hour.
“Stipends are disbursed in two installments: participants will receive the first payment at or around the start of the program and the final payment after the successful completion of the program,” the website said.
The White House’s statement to CNN described the move to pay interns as a “significant milestone” that “will help remove barriers to equal opportunity for low-income students and first-generation professionals at the beginnings of their careers and help to ensure that those who receive internships at the White House – and who will be a significant part of the leadership pipeline across the entire federal government – reflect the diversity of America.”
The internships will be funded through a provision for White House internships tucked into the massive government funding bill passed earlier this year. Prospective candidates can begin applying starting Monday and will be notified in August.
Starting more than 18 months after President Joe Biden took office, it marks the first time that the Biden White House will have a full class of interns due to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Fall 2022 session will be hosted in-person on the White House campus. Program leadership will continue to monitor the public health landscape related to Covid-19 and will adapt the program’s approach in order to ensure a safe and healthy work environment,” the White House said.
There has long been pressure on the White House to pay its interns, long lagging behind many private sector employers. The internship has always been unpaid and there has not been housing or cost of living expenses provided, creating a significant burden for those chosen for the prestigious role and keeping many qualified candidates away.
The grassroots Fair Pay Campaign launched efforts to call on then-President Barack Obama to pay his interns back in 2013 as Obama spent his summer advocating for minimum wage increases across the country.
“We don’t believe the White House can, in good faith, go after minimum wage and at the same time have unpaid staff,” Fair Pay Campaign’s Mikey Franklin said at the time.
Nonprofit advocacy group Pay Our Interns began campaigning the White House to pay its interns in October 2019, sending a letter to the Biden-Harris transition in December 2020 signed by more than 200 alumni of the White House internship program. The group subsequently lobbied lawmakers to include $4.5 million for White House internship programs in the massive omnibus government funding bill passed in March.
“We are pleased that the WH has taken this important step forward so that the opportunity to serve the country is open to every person, not just those who can work for free. We are hopeful this new announcement will send a strong message to the rest of the federal government and other sectors that it is socially and morally unacceptable to have unpaid internships,” Pay Our Interns co-founder and former unpaid White House intern Carlos Mark Vera said in a statement to CNN.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the White House said Thursday, “have committed to building an administration that looks like America, believing that qualified people from every background and walk of life should have equal opportunity to serve our nation. That commitment is reflected in each White House Internship Program class, and all who are interested and meet the established criteria are highly encouraged to apply.”
The internship runs September 12 through December 16 and is open to current college students, those who have graduated within two years, or veterans with a high school diploma who have served on active duty within the last two years, the White House said.
This story has been updated with additional information.