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House members can claim reimbursement for lodging, meals and incidentals this year, a major change for lawmakers who have struggled to keep a residence both in their district and in Washington.
A member and three senior congressional aides confirmed the change on condition of anonymity as the guidance is still being hammered out.
The House’s chief administrative officer notified members and staffers of the change Tuesday in an email obtained by Bloomberg Government.
Reimbursements for members are limited to when they are in Washington for official business and are capped at a daily limit determined by the General Services Administration. The funding will come from the Member’s Representational Allowance, the account that covers official expenses.
The bipartisan House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress proposed the idea. The panel noted in its final report that while the average member’s salary of $174,000 is much higher than the average American’s, they have to cover the cost of two residences.
“Unlike their counterparts in the executive branch and private sector, members do not receive a per diem or reimbursement for their out-of-pocket living expenses when they are at work in Washington,” the committee wrote in its report.
Members haven’t gotten a pay increase since 2009 and have regularly voted to block otherwise automatic cost of living increases, including in the fiscal 2023 omnibus appropriations package.
Some new members have discussed their challenges securing housing. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.), tweeted about his experiences last December.
“Just applied to an apartment in DC where I told the guy that my credit was really bad. He said I’d be fine. Got denied, lost the apartment, and the application fee,” he wrote in one Dec. 8 post. “This ain’t meant for people who don’t already have money.”
He later said that “I also recognize that I’m speaking from a point of privilege cause in 2 years time, my credit will be okay because of my new salary.”
The House Administration Committee approved the reimbursement policy in late December with none of the lawmakers on the panel opposed.
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org