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Tags: capitol hill | summer | internships | pandemic

Pandemic Cancels Many Capitol Hill Internship Opportunities

an aerial view of Capitol Hill is seen May 25, 2020, in Washington, dee see
(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 25 May 2020 04:53 PM EDT

Capitol Hill is usually buzzing with interns looking to learn the ins-and-outs of politics.

Coronavirus has turned in-person experiences to virtual ones or canceled summer internship programs completely, The Hill reports.

A recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin planned to spend his final semester working at the Capitol. The aspiring policy aide said his internship with a Democrat senator ended once the first case of the virus was identified on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate can still hire interns for the summer, but they will only be able to do work virtually. The Hill reports many officials just do not want to go through the hassle. If they hire an intern to work remotely, they have to get them government-issued laptops to set up their email addresses and jump through other logistical hoops.

The challenges have resulted in some offices reducing the number of interns they welcome from about five or six, to just two, and in many cases none at all.

Other internship programs that are offered by the executive branch, the Supreme Court and the private sector are also either suspending programs or going virtual with interns.

The Fund for American Studies said it typically has 350 students every summers, but so far only 200 have enrolled in the program that is now all virtual.

Joseph Starrs, director of U.S. programs for FAS, said the dip in enrollment comes as Capitol Hill and federal agencies have nearly completely gotten rid of their summer internship programs. FAS helps place interns into openings.

"Most students dream of coming to D.C. and being on Capitol Hill," Starrs said. "But the big shiny, shiny object internships aren't really there for the most part."

A National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey this month found 22% of employers in the U.S. have canceled internship opportunities for the summer. 

The internships that are available in Washington are at nonprofits, media outlets or other private organizations, Starrs said.

According to The Hill, media outlets such as NPR and Slate have announced they are canceling their internship programs. Think tank the Brookings Institution, is hosting a remote internship program. Some Congress-affiliated PACs, such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s BOLD PAC, are still hosting remote internships. 

"Capitol Hill has probably been the biggest nut to crack we have so far," Starrs said. "We haven't had anybody in the offices agree to host any of our virtual interns, and that's also true of most federal agencies that we normally deal with."

Some lawmakers say they are feeling the impact of not having interns to help especially as the virus peaked in March. Interns typically help answer calls and field emails and  constituents were bombarding congressional offices with questions.

"Not having them to do that hurt," a House Democrat aide said of the absence of interns.  

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Coronavirus has turned in-person experiences to virtual ones or canceled summer internship programs completely, according to The Hill.
capitol hill, summer, internships, pandemic
Monday, 25 May 2020 04:53 PM
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