U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell called the Department of Agriculture "icily silent"
Food Stamps
Credit: Tim Boyle/Getty

A federal judge in Washington D.C. has blocked a Trump administration rule that would have stripped food stamps from nearly 700,000 unemployed Americans.

In her 67-page ruling on Sunday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell called the administration's proposed plan "arbitrary and capricious."

"The final rule at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving states scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans," Howell wrote in the ruling.

Howell also called out the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in her ruling for being "icily silent" about how many Americans would have been denied food stamps had the changes been put into effect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USDA did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment.

The ruling also estimated that as of May, two months after the pandemic broke out, the number of Americans that signed up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, rose "17 percent with over 6 million new enrollees."

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump
| Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump's administration's proposed plan to cut food stamps was formalized by the USDA back in December. Had it passed in court, it would have slashed nearly $5.5 billion from SNAP over five years, according to the Washington Post.

That could have impacted 688,000 people losing their SNAP, CNN reported.

USDA 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," according to NBC News.

In an attempt to challenge the USDA's ruling, a coalition of attorneys general from 19 states, D.C. and New York City filed a lawsuit back in January, CNN reported.

RELATED VIDEO: Couple Overcomes COVID-19, Cancer, Chemotherapy in 46-Year Marriage

The ruling was originally scheduled to take effect in April, but was blocked by Howell on March 13 – the same day Trump, 74, declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency. Later that month, Congress voted to suspend work mandates in the food stamp program as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.