A federal judge has issued an injunction blocking the Trump administration from adopting a rule change that would force nearly 700,000 Americans off food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The rule change was set to take effect on April 1.

In a ruling issued Friday evening in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell called the rule change capricious, arbitrary and likely unlawful.

The rule change would have required able-bodied adults without children to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for SNAP benefits past three months. It would also have limited states’ usual ability to waive those requirements depending on economic conditions. The preliminary injunction will preserve that flexibility.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was adopting the rule change in December, but critics have called on the department to suspend implementation, especially in light of the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department planned to move ahead with the rule.

In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, photo, Richard Butler and his fiance Amber laugh while they have breakfast in an apartment a friend is letting them live in on Chicago's Southside. Having food stamps offers Butler a stability he's rarely known in his 25 years. But that stability is being threatened for people like him, who are able-bodied, without dependents and between the ages 18 and 49. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)

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