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Jobless benefits restored for millions

By Tami Luhby, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Millions of jobless Americans are getting their unemployment benefits back.

Hours after the House voted Thursday to push back the deadline to file for extended unemployment benefits until the end of November, President Obama signed the measure into law.

The approval came a day after the Senate voted 59 to 39 to restore the payments, ending a seven-week stalemate.

Some 2.9 million people were scheduled to run out of benefits by the end of the week. The jobless stopped getting their checks in early June, after Congress failed to extend the deadline to apply for unemployment insurance.

Senate Republicans, as well as Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, prevented the legislation's passage, saying it should be paid for first. They suggested covering the $34 billion tab with unused stimulus money, a step the Senate Democratic leadership rejected.

Federal unemployment payments, which last up to 73 weeks, kick in after the state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. These federal benefits are divided into tiers, and the jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.

The payments will be retroactive to the previous deadline of June 2. But it could take up to a month for states to start sending the checks again, experts said.

Lynda Kahn of Coral Springs, Fla., can't wait to get that check. She stopped getting benefits last week and applied for Medicaid, only to be turned down because she doesn't have dependent children. But she did get a supermarket gift card from a local charity to supplement her $200 a month food stamp allotment.

Kahn depends on her unemployment check, which was $275 a week plus a $25 stimulus-funded supplement that will be discontinued for those newly unemployed. She lost her job as a manager for a doctor's office last August.

"It covers my mortgage payment," she said. To top of page

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