MANY ARE the people who have sweated through the seemingly endless time it takes for the checks they have s it takes to have access to one's funds, can be as long as three weeks for out-of-state checks. Some banks even put holds on payroll and cashier's checks. While depositors wait out this process, those banks have received the cash equivalent of their depositors' checks and use that money without paying any interest to the depositor.

Pending legislation, known as the Expedited Funds Availability Act and easily approved on a voice vote by the House Banking Committee, would change all of that. Within 90 days of its enactment, banks could place no more than a one- business-day hold on some checks and a hold of no longer than six days on any check deposit. It would require the Federal Reserve system to develop a plan within three years requiring banks to give access to funds from local checks on the next business day and from most out-of-state checks within three business days.

This is welcome news, particularly for those not- so-high income people who have written checks to pay their bills, unsure whether the hold on their deposits would clear in time to cover their payments.

The banking industry is strongly opposed to this legislation, arguing that it can take several days to learn whether a deposited check will bounce. Spokesmen add that it might be technically impossible to clear checks so quickly. They also say that they do not place holds on the deposits of proven customers.

There was a time when citizens could use "the float," writing checks for sums in excess of their account balances, knowing that they could make a deposit to cover the float before creditors could cash their checks. Better technology has all but eliminated that practice. To be fair, the banking industry should give its customers quicker access to their funds. This is a law that is long overdue.