Originally slated to take effect in April, the new rules had already been delayed due to the pandemic.

Back in December, the Trump administration announced a controversial change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—often anachronistically referred to as “food stamps”—tightening the work requirement, limiting states’ control, and likely ending benefits for nearly 700,000 Americans. The new policy—slated to begin on April 1—never took effect, since pulling support from hundreds of thousands of people during a pandemic was deemed a bit callous, and the revised rules were instead intended to take effect when the national emergency ended. But now, they may never take effect at all.

Over the weekend, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell struck down the planned SNAP revisions, stating that the change would “dramatically alter the long-standing operations’ of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” since it “radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans.” Howell's ruling granted a summary judgement to a coalition of 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the City of New York City, alongside private plaintiffs, all of which had sued to permanently block the new policy.

SNAP and EBT Accepted here sign. SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of disadvantaged families
Credit: jetcityimage/Getty Images

“At a time of national crisis, this decision is a win for common sense and basic human decency,” New York Attorney General Letitia James—who filed the lawsuit with District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine against the USDA in January—said in a statement. “This Trump Administration rule was cruel to its core and ran counter to who we are and what we represent as a nation. If implemented, this rule would have not only made it harder for thousands to feed their families and risk them going hungry, but would have exacerbated the public health crisis we face and the economic recession we are still in the midst of under President Trump’s lack of leadership.”

Numerous news outlets have reported that the USDA—which runs SNAP—did not respond to requests for comment on the ruling. That said, with America still under a state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic and an election looming just two weeks away, the future of SNAP would now appear tied to the outcome of those two events more so than any further legal wrangling.