WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama signed into law a bill restoring unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of Americans. The benefits expired April 5 after Congress went into spring recess without passing an extension, leaving more than 400,000 unable to apply for continued benefits. The extension will keep benefits flowing until June 2, and will cost the government $18 billion.
The measure also extends other federal programs through the end of May, including COBRA benefits, Medicare and national flood insurance.
The bill allows those who were denied unemployment checks to collect them retroactively. Checks received by recipients of jobless benefits average $335 per week.
The passage overcomes a filibuster instigated by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who initially stalled the bill by voting against an emergency unanimous-consent agreement for the extension.
The number of people filing for unemployment benefits across the nation spiked on Thursday, rising by 24,000 new requests. That brought the total claimants to 484,000, the highest rate since late February, according to Labor Department reports.
The news echoed fears expressed by Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke during an joint economic committee hearing Wednesday that the unemployment rate might remain “stubbornly high” even as the economy climbs back to normal.
In March, the nation’s unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
The approved measure was H.R.4851 of the Continuing Extension Act.
The Senate voted 59-38 to pass the measure, the House passed it with a 289-112 vote, and Obama signed it into law late Thursday night.