The United States plans to send cash payments to Contra rebels inside Nicaragua that will enable them to buy food locally while a dispute over resettlement keeps them from receiving food and other supplies, an administration official says.

The payments will range between 50 cents and $1 a day for thousands of Contra fighters - "enough to keep body and soul together," according to the official, who spoke Monday on the condition that he not be identified.A final decision will be made later in the week by Alan Woods, administrator of the Agency for International Development, the official said.

After the Contras and Nicaragua's leftist government signed a temporary truce on March 23, Congress approved a $47.9 million humanitarian aid package for the rebels, consistent with a provision in the truce agreement.

The legislation permits deliveries of food, clothing, shelter and medical supplies and medical care for children who are war victims.

The agreement specified that the rebels receive the aid after resettling in seven mutually agreed cease-fire zones.

However, no food or other supplies have been sent inside Nicaragua because a dispute over ground rules within the zones has prevented the resettlement from taking place.

This has left some Contra units with acute food shortages. Air drops have been ruled out because of fear that Sandinista fighters might shoot down the planes used to transport the food.