The 963 Berkshire County residents who are relying on federal extensions for their unemployment benefits for longer than six and a half months will officially lose the weekly payments they have relied on after Dec. 28.

The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday to approve a new budget deal does not contain federal unemployment extension benefits. President Obama was expected to sign the measure on Friday before leaving on his holiday break.

The budget agreement mirrors one which the House of Representatives had approved last week. The deal staves off sequestration cuts to a number of federal programs such as defense, housing and Head Start, by eliminating the unemployment benefits, cutting Medicare and limiting the cost of living increases to military retirees under 62.

U.S. Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., voted to approve the deal. In an emailed statement, Markey said "it is unfortunate that the budget agreement failed to include a critical extension of unemployment Insurance while corporate tax loopholes and billions in subsidies for oil companies remain on the books. These jobless benefits make an important difference to unemployed workers and their families in Massachusetts and around the country. I support Senator [Harry] Reid’s commitment to rectifying this situation as our first priority at the start of the new year."

Markey’s spokesperson, Giselle Barry, said she is confident that an extension of unemployment benefits would be discussed when the Senate returns from vacation on Jan. 6. However, the terms would still have to be negotiated with the House of Representatives. Any details regarding such a new agreement would be speculation, Barry said.

During a press conference on Friday, President Barack Obama said a bipartisan group in Congress is working on a three-month extension of unemployment benefits. Those talks will resume in January.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who voted to approve the budget deal, did not return a message left at her office seeking comment.

To reach Nathan Mayberg:
nmayberg@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 496-6243