BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — Thousands of people in the Southern Tier could be in danger of having their food stamps disrupted if the federal government is not fully open by February.

The Broome County Department of Social Services says the shutdown has caused a lack of federal funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

“It effects elderly, low income. It includes veterans who have low income. There’s a great number of folks who fall under the income eligibility levels. It’s food security for those folks, its the ability to feed your families,” said the deputy commissioner of assistance programs for the Broome County Department of Social Services, Sonja Bennett. “if the shutdown extends beyond February this year there could be effects on SNAP benefits.”

The department says 28,000 people in Broome County use the program and could see effects if the shutdown continues into February.

“They could be reduced for one month potentially, individuals may not receive their benefits, said Bennett. “But I will say in the past when this happens, the federal government will generally would attempt, to fund in one way or another, the benefits.”

Bennett says a lack food stamps is a potential loss not just for the families but also the economy.

“SNAP expenditures on a monthly basis in Broome County area about $3.6 million. That’s what goes into the economy. Retailers, if there were no SNAP benefits being used could potentially be effected,” said Bennett.

The department says if the shutdown continues through March, it is planning to find ways to help the community.

“We would have to try to assist in other manners, in other ways locally with other resources available to folks for food,” said Bennett.

The department says one of the resources is working with local food banks like CHOW.

“This is usually the time of year where things start to settle down but it’s really going to take the whole community to meet that need if the shutdowns do continue in February,” said Jack Seaman, the director of CHOW.

However, DSS says the federal government has still plenty of time to open the government and avoid these issues.

“It has not happened before. We are hoping it does not happen,” said Bennett.

CHOW says it is working with several other food banks in the Southern Tier just in case they are needed to help those families.

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