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 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 2 million people who have been unable to find work in the aftermath of the nation’s 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.

“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 after signing the measure.

Thursday’s 272-152 House vote came less than 24 hours after a mostly party-line Senate vote Wednesday on the bill.

The measure is what remains of a Democratic effort launched in February to renew elements of last year’s economic stimulus bill. But GOP opposition forced Democrats to drop $24 billion to help state governments avoid layoffs and higher taxes, as well as a package of expired tax cuts and a health insurance subsidy for the unemployed.

Wrangling over the larger measure consumed about four months. The jobless benefits portion picked up enough GOP support in the Senate — Maine moderates Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe — only after it was broken off as a stand-alone bill. It would have passed last month were it not for the death of Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.; Byrd’s replacement, Democrat Carte Goodwin, cast the key 60th vote Tuesday to defeat a GOP filibuster.

Most Republicans opposed the measure because it would add $34 billion to a national debt that has hit $13 trillion, arguing that it should have been paid for with cuts to other programs.