UPDATE: Since this story aired, Agriculture Department officials have guaranteed food stamp funding through February despite the partial government shutdown. Officials could not guarantee the benefits if the shutdown lasts until March.

ORIGINAL STORY: The partial federal government shutdown could soon impact thousands of Central New Yorkers who rely on the nation’s food stamp program or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

An emergency $3 billion dollars was approved by Congress, but if the shutdown continues into February, that money could run out.

NewsChannel 9’s Rob Hackford spoke with Assistant Food Studies Professor Evan Weissman, from Syracuse University who said he’s concerned about the people affected most.

“The impacts of any delay in food dollars are going to hit the most vulnerable among us first and foremost,” said Weissman

He added that although the shutdown has not hit the point of no return, it’s the uncertainty that has him and families who depend on the funding to pay for groceries everyday concerned.

“We can’t underestimate the impacts of a prolonged federal shutdown on people’s abilities to make ends meet and people’s ability to feed themselves,” said Weissman.

About 73,000 people in Onondaga County rely on SNAP benefits, scattered throughout rural and urban communities. Currently, all of them are receiving money and according to the Onondaga County Commissioner of Social Services new applications are also being processed.

But Weissman explained, the potential for a lapse in money is enough to have private food organizations preparing for an increase in demand. If families aren’t able to buy food using SNAP benefits, they may have to rely on food pantries and soup kitchens.

“We know that slightly more than 70 percent of peoples who access our food pantry and soup kitchens are also receiving SNAP,” said Becky Lare, Advocacy Resource Manager at the Food Bank of Central New York.

While Lare admits the Food Bank can’t completely make up for the possible elimination of SNAP benefits, they will do their best to help anyone, including furloughed federal workers who come through their doors.