GREENSTEIN/DeANGELO/BENSON URGE BPU ACTION TO PREVENT UTILITY SHUT OFF UNTIL PROGRAMS BEGIN

Funding Awarded through TRUE Grant May Not be Accessed for 60 to 90 Days Leaving Hundreds of Families in Jeopardy of Losing Heat, Energy

(TRENTON) — Following Thursday’s decision by the Board of Public Utilities to award a $25 million appropriation aimed at providing utility assistance grants for low-income families, Senator Linda R. Greenstein and Assemblymen Wayne P. DeAngelo and Daniel R. Benson today urged the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to work to ensure that the at-risk homeowners will not face utility shut-off unless the program is operational.

Funding for the utility assistance grants, formerly provided through the non-profit agency NJ Shares, was put on-hold for seven months while the BPU issued a public request for proposals crippling homeowner access to assistance programs. Under the new Temporary Relief for Utility Expenses (TRUE) program, the BPU allocated $25 million to the Monmouth County-based agency, the Affordable Housing Alliance. The program is funded through the Societal Benefits Charge (SBC) paid by ratepayers.

“We are relieved that the Board finally awarded the funding for the TRUE grant program since there has been a hold on this utility aid for more than seven months. However, a further delay of the program to be fully operational is just not acceptable,” said Greenstein (D-Plainsboro). “We urge the Board to work with this agency to move quickly so that a further delay does not occur.”

The 14th District lawmakers called on the BPU to take action to work with utility companies to prevent shut-offs of customers who could be eligible for the TRUE program while AHA is working to fully implement all program functions including online filing. During the official winter months, utility providers cannot turn off power to homes. However, on March 15, a week before spring begins, a family’s power can be shut-off if they have overdue charges on their electric or heating bills.

“My office currently has a list of 50 families in our district who are in dire financial straights and waiting for relief from their energy bills,” said DeAngelo (D-Hamilton). “Once the March comes, these families are going to be literally left in the dark with no heat if this program does not get up and running soon. There isn’t a day to lose so the Board needs to focus on getting the TRUE program up and running and assistance to the families that need it the most.”

“This year’s extreme winter weather undoubtedly caused many families to grapple with high energy bills. Until the program is fully operational, the Board should step-in and work to delay the date that could potentially trigger the shut-off of utilities for hundreds of families,” said Benson (D-Hamilton).

Greenstein, DeAngelo and Benson represent the 14th Legislative District which consists of portions of Middlesex and Mercer counties.