House lawmakers reimbursed for rent, food, other expenses as new policy takes effect

New guidelines for Congress were finalized this week that will reimburse lawmakers for substantial portions of their rent, food and other expenses they incur while in Washington, DC – effectively giving members a pay hike.

It’s an issue that members have complained about for years – many have said their $174,000 salary, while well above the U.S. median, isn’t enough to afford housing in DC and in their home district. It’s forced many to share apartments together and even sleep in their offices.

Fox News Digital obtained a memo sent to House members on Friday morning detailing the rollout of the reimbursement policy, which seeks to clarify a change that had been agreed upon during the last Congress, before Republicans took control of the House.

Under the guidelines, lawmakers will be able to apply for cost reimbursements dated back to January 3, the beginning of the 118th session.


Members will be able to get cash back for rent, hotel fees, food and travel for days that qualify as "official business" – when Congress is in session or days designated for lawmakers’ relevant committee work. Days when members are traveling in and out of Washington are covered up to 75%.

Participation in the reimbursement plan is optional, but members who use it will see those disclosures become public record.

Meals and incidentals are capped at a daily maximum total of $79, which is in line with current regulations for federal employees by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

The GSA’s current rates also extend to how much of lawmakers’ lodging can be covered. The daily figure fluctuates. It was $188 per day in January and will be $258 per day in June, according to the document obtained by Fox News Digital. But members can be reimbursed for the daily amount only on days of "official business." For example, lawmakers would be able to get $1,880 back for 10 in-session days in January.

Factors used by the GSA to calculate the fluctuating rate include seasonality and property-selection criteria to align lodging rates with mid-range hotels, among other variables.


Rent on apartments, utility costs, as well as condo and HOA fees are all eligible uses for reimbursement. However, lawmakers who own property in the Washington, DC, area will not be able to get their mortgage payments paid back, the policy indicates. Members whose homes are within 50 miles of the Capitol will also be ineligible.

The update does not authorize any new spending but will rather use House lawmakers’ own Member's Representational Allowance for the costs.


It comes after years of steady grumbling on Capitol Hill over the barriers for entry created by lawmakers having to foot their own food and housing bills while in Washington, DC.

The conversation has come back to the forefront in recent months as rent costs in the nation’s capital and its surrounding areas have skyrocketed. Lawmakers from lower- and middle-class backgrounds have complained that it’s difficult to get by as a member of Congress, having to have somewhere to stay in DC while maintaining a residence in their districts, without being independently wealthy.

Just after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was elected in 2018, she told the New York Times about her struggles trying to find housing in DC. She noted that she could not be on the payroll somewhere else in the time between her election in November and her January swearing-in.

"I have three months without a salary before I’m a member of Congress. So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real," she said.

Late last year, freshman Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., revealed on Twitter that his application for a DC apartment had been denied due to bad credit, despite his hefty expected salary.

"This ain’t meant for people who don’t already have money," Frost wrote on the platform at the time.

"Been there," Ocasio-Cortez replied. "This is one of many ways Congress structures itself to exclude and push out the few working class people who *do* get elected. These systems are built for people who can lean on wealth. It’s shocking how detached from reality a lot of the details are - but I got you!"