Senate Approves Jobless Payments to Millions

WASHINGTON (AP) _ State unemployment agencies are gearing up to resume sending unemployment payments to millions of people as Congress moves to ship President Barack Obama a measure to restore lapsed benefits.

After months of an increasingly bitter stalemate, the Senate passed the measure Wednesday by a 59-39 vote. Obama is poised to sign the measure into law after a final House vote on Thursday.

It’s a welcome relief to 2 million people who have been out of work for six months or more and have seen their benefits lapse.

Under best-case scenarios, unemployed people who have been denied jobless benefits because of a partisan Senate standoff over renewing them can expect retroactive payments as early as next week in some states. In other states, it will take longer.

State unemployment and labor agencies have been preparing for weeks for Congress to restore jobless payments averaging $309 a week for almost 5 million people whose 26 weeks of state benefits have run out.

Those people are enrolled in a federally financed program providing up to 73 additional weeks of unemployment benefits.

About half of those eligible have had their benefits cut off since funding 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.

The Senate continued debating the measure a full day after a GOP filibuster was defeated by a 60-40 vote.

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