Congress resolved the federal pay dispute last night, but it was too late for 84,000 federal workers in the Washington area, who received halfpay checks earlier yesterday.
About 78,000 civilian employes of the Defense Department here, and 6,000 area employes of the Labor Department, were among 623,000 Defense and Labor workers nationwide whose biweekly checks included only earnings for the last week of September.
Their checks, however, did not include pay earned for the first week of October, which was the start of the federal government's new fiscal year.
Budgets for most federal agencies still have not been approved by Congress had to approve a so-called continuing resolution which allows federal departments to continue operating at last year's spending levels.
Last night's temporary resolution of the impasse between the House and Senate -- the new agreement extends the deadline for approving the new budgets until Nov. 20 -- means the most federal workers will get their paychecks next week, although an Office of Management and Budget official said delivery of the checks may be delayed a day or two.
Yesterday's agreement also took the pressure off the District government which, because its budget must be approved by Congress, also faced an unfunded payday next week.
The 84,000 workers who drew short checks yesterday also will get the rest of the money due them next week.
Dale R. McOmber, assistant director of budget review for OMB, said that 1.6 million military personnel will get paid on time Monday. But he said that 73,000 Transportation Department workers will get only half-pay, and 38,000 members of the Coast Guard may not get their checks Monday because their pay period is Oct. 1-15. Civillin workers overlap the two fiscal years in pay schedules.
Federal agencies have faced funding delays before and were prepared to deliver delayed paychecks as soon as they got the word that the problem had been resolved.
Al Zuck, Assistant Labor Secretary for Administration and Management, said Labor, for example, has the other half of its paychecks on a computer at Treasury, where they will be printed this weekend.
As Congress struggled with -- and eventually adopted -- the continuing resolution yesterday, federal workers deluged offices of area members of Congress demanding action.
"Most of them sceaming that Congress was holding their pay hostage," said an aide to Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.), whose office was encouraging callers to contact members of the House-Senate conference committee.
The office of Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.) received about 50 phone calls Thursday and yesterday from irate government workers who complained their pay while arguing about such other issues as abortion and how much of a raise Congress should give itself.
A caller asked Spellman's staff: "Whate am I going to do about my bills?
When I get half my pay, should I pay half my bills?"
Spellman's aides said they had no answer to such questions. But the callers were variously advised to call the House Appropriations Committee or their home state senators, depending on where the hangup was at the moment, to pressure them to solve the problem quickly.
"The phone hasn't stopped ringing for two days," added an aide to Rep. Herbert E. Harris Ii (D-Va.)
Gayle Turner, wife of the Coast Guardsman Petty Officer 1st Class Wilson Turner, said "trying to survive from paycheck to paycheck is hard enough. Why should our pay checks be attached to any other bills?It's very unfair."
She said seh tried to call her home state senator, Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.), three times but a busy signal each time, and gave up.