A federal judge struck down a Trump administration rule that would have reduced food stamp benefits to nearly 700,000 people.
In her Sunday ruling, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell wrote that implementing the change "radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans."
In December, the Department of Agriculture formalized a proposal for work requirements for recipients of food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, that would have disqualified an estimated 688,000 people from food benefits.
Secretary Sonny Perdue said at the time that the changes were made "in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program."
In her ruling Sunday, Howell wrote that the department, which administers the food stamp program, had been "icily silent" about the number of people who would be affected by its proposed reduction in benefits, adding that one estimate from May 2020 found "SNAP rosters have grown by over 17 percent with over 6 million new enrollees."
It wasn't the first time Howell ruled against the proposal. In March, she issued a preliminary injunction against the rule that also referred to the food security threat posed by the then-burgeoning coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Agriculture did not immediately respond to a NBC News request for comment.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in March, food pantries across the country have been hamstrung by the consumer run on grocery stores.
According to a recent study by Columbia University researchers, more than 8 million Americans slipped into poverty since May, demonstrating the deep impact of the coronavirus pandemic.