WASHINGTON - Federal checks could begin flowing again as early as next week to millions of jobless people who lost up to seven weeks of unemployment benefits in a congressional standoff.
President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a restoration of benefits for people who have been out of work for six months or more. Congress approved the measure earlier in the day. The move ended an interruption that cut off payments averaging about $300 a week to 2½ million people who have been unable to find work in the aftermath of the nation's long and deep recession.
At stake are up to 73 weeks of federally financed benefits for people who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state jobless benefits. About half of the approximately 5 million people in the program have had their benefits cut off since its authorization expired June 2.
They are eligible for lump-sum retroactive payments that are typically delivered directly to their bank accounts or credited to state-issued debit cards. Many states have encouraged beneficiaries to keep updating their paperwork in hopes of speeding payments once the program was restored.
In states like Pennsylvania and New York, the back payments should go out next week, officials said. In others, like Nevada and North Carolina, it may take a few weeks for all of those eligible to receive benefits.
Thursday's 272-152 House vote sent the bill to the White House.
"Americans who are fighting to find a good job and support their families will finally get the support they need to get back on their feet during these tough economic times," Obama said in a statement issued after signing the measure.