Q&A on the News

Q: Why does Michelle Obama still have a staff? Are the American taxpayers paying for her rental space and her employees? Have other first ladies maintained a staff after the husband left office?

– L. Louise Ward, Cumming

A: Like her husband, other former presidents and former first ladies, Michelle Obama will not return to private anonymity after the White House. As a former first lady, there will “be a big public demand” for Obama in the future, her longtime deputy chief of staff Melissa Winter told the Washington Post in January.

“After a long break, Obama plans to get to work with a small staff that will move into office space in Washington,” reports the Washington Post. Winter is expected to lead that group.

Staffs are often employed by former presidents and first ladies to handle correspondence, scheduling requests and other ongoing demands of their lives after the White House.

While former presidents are eligible for an annual pension equal to the pay for a Cabinet secretary ($205,700 in 2016) and are given allowances to establish, furnish and staff their official office anywhere in the United States, former first ladies do not receive a pension. (Presidential widows, however, are eligible for a $20,000 pension per year.)

Former first ladies do receive taxpayer-funded benefits like Secret Service protection and up to $500,000 per year in official travel expenses, according to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.

To support themselves, as well as fund their post-White House staffs, the Washington Post reported that the Obama family will need to generate an income. In the past, former first ladies and presidents have earned substantial incomes by accepting paid offers to speak and writing memoirs.

Fast Copy News Service wrote this column; Keith Still contributed. Do you have a question? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).

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