(TRENTON) – At the beginning of the pandemic, the shutoff moratorium was implemented to help prevent most gas, power, water and sewer utility service providers from cutting off residents who were unable to make their bill payments. The moratorium has come to an end and thousands of New Jerseyans are in need of assistance to keep their utilities on.
“The past two years have been difficult for many families, leaving around 800,000 gas and electric customers in need of assistance,” said Assemblyman Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Since the high influx of applications has extended the timeline for the State to make prompt determinations on assistance, we must extend the grace period and provide families with essential utilities while they await action on their applications for relief.” Understanding the urgency of the situation, Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Cleopatra Tucker, Paul Moriarty, and Britnee Timberlake sponsor a measure that would stop utility discontinuances or reconnect services for residents who have applied for payment assistance. The measure was approved on Thursday by the full Assembly 72-3-1 and the Senate 35-0.
“This bill will help New Jersey families to keep their utilities on while also giving the State more time to adequately address each application,” said Assemblywoman Tucker (D-Essex). “No one deserves to have their electricity or water shut off while they wait for answers.”
The bill (S-2356/A-3671) would extend the current grace period for utility customers to make their service payments if they have submitted an application for assistance before June 15, 2022, but have not received a determination. Under the bill, a customer will be provided services for an additional 60 days from the time they sent a utility assistance application to the New Jersey Department of Commerce (NJDCA).
“Many families are still recovering financially from the pandemic and a lot of people still face employment challenges,” said Assemblyman Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester). “This is absolutely necessary to ensure families throughout New Jersey continue to have access to water and electric utilities.”
“Between filling out the assistance paperwork and waiting for approval, households may have to wait several months to finally receive the aid they deserve,” said Assemblywoman Timberlake (D-Essex, Passaic). “This is a necessary step to help many people in New Jersey keep their lights on.”
The measure now heads to the Governor.