Omnibus Bill Allocates $8 Million for Intern Pay at State Department

Mar 9, 2022
12:30 PM

Harry S. Truman Building, headquarters of the U.S. Department of State, in Washington, D.C. (AgnosticPreachersKid/CC BY-SA 3.0)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package published by the House Rules Committee early on Wednesday will include $8 million for paying interns at the State Department.

According to the explanatory statement on the bill published by the House Appropriations Committee, “the Act provides authority for the Department of State to provide up to $8,000,000 for paid internships in order to expand the pool of participants in the program.”

The omnibus spending bill also increases funding for other workforce diversity initiatives at both the Department of State and USAID, a federal agency focused on foreign aid and development, including a total of $12 million for the Pickering and Rangel fellowships, programs meant to assist “outstanding young people” looking for careers in foreign service.

Pay Our Interns applauds Congressional appropriators for the inclusion of State Department internship funding,” said Carlos Mark Vera, founder of the organization that has been at the forefront of pushing for intern pay across government. “Given the challenges the world faces right now in Ukraine and beyond, we need personnel from all walks of life to help us tackle today’s challenges and those to come.”

“It’s long past time that government pays its interns,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), a longtime proponent of intern pay. “Unpaid internships limit who can work here because there’s so many people that can’t afford to work for free. We talk a lot about diversity and making sure that the State Department and other departments are accessible for everyone who’s interested in a career there. This is a fundamental part of making sure that’s true.”

In the Senate, intern pay at the State Department remained in flux as late as Monday afternoon, when Latino Rebels asked appropriators for a status update on the matter.

Intern pay had been removed from the House bill sent up by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), which included $10 million to pay interns at the State Department in 2022

“I have pushed for it,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) when asked by Latino Rebels on Monday about funding paid internships at the State Department through the appropriations bill. “That is an authorizer issue. The authorizers need to consent. (Sen.) Lindsey (Graham [D-SC]) and I are appropriators. (Sens. Bob) Menendez (D-NJ) and (Jim) Risch (R-ID) are the authorizers. If the authorizers objective to an appropriating issue that’s within their jurisdiction, we cannot proceed.”

The House version of the bill “direct[ed] the Secretary of State to plan and take all necessary steps to transition all Department of State internships to paid internships not later than 3 years after the enactment” of the bill.

Latino Rebels asked Sens. Menendez and Risch if they had removed the funding for intern pay at the State Department.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Risch.

“Not me,” said Menendez. “Removed? I don’t support removing it. It would never be me. The State Department made a big issue of it with me, so I can’t believe they asked for it to be removed. I’ll have to find out. This is the first I’ve heard about it.”

Beyond the State Department, Congressional interns also saw their pay increase in the new text of the omnibus spending package, with $18.2 million appropriated for intern pay in member offices, including $2.3 million in new funding for interns within committee offices.

The new appropriations, if enacted, would increase the amount of funding available in each Congressional office for paying interns from $25,000 to $35,000 per year.


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports