After arguing that it was an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic, Hobby Lobby has made the decision to close all its stores, furloughing nearly all of its employees in the process.

The arts and crafts retailer said the decision was made after “careful consideration.” The furloughs were effective on Friday, affecting nearly all store employees and a large portion of its corporate and distribution workers.

Furloughed employees will continue to receive medical, dental, life, and long-term disability benefits until at least May 1, with Hobby Lobby paying the cost of the premiums. When workers return to their job, Hobby Lobby said they will retain seniority, accrued vacation, and paid personal time off.

Hobby Lobby said its stores will remain closed “until further notice.”

“Our sincere gratitude goes out to our dedicated employees at this difficult time, and we look forward to the day when we can welcome them back, once we are able to reopen,” the company said in a statement.

Hobby Lobby had claimed it was an essential business that needed to remain open because it provided materials to make personal protective equipment, such as face masks, and sold educational supplies for parents that are teaching their children from home.

The company said it had implemented safety measures inside its stores such as barriers between customers and workers at its checkout areas and will monitor the COVID-19 situation to determine when its stores can reopen again.

Hobby Lobby came under fire for staying open in several states as nonessential businesses were ordered to close because of the coronavirus. David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby, said his wife, Barbara, received a message from God, telling her that stores should remain open.

Hobby Lobby stores in a number of states were ordered to close by local police, prompting a string of forced closures across the U.S.

Hobby Lobby A Hobby Lobby store is pictured on June 30, 2014, in Plantation, Florida. Photo: Getty Images