By: Savannah Scarborough, Writer / Follow South Jersey Community Resources Intern
TRENTON, N.J. — Governor Phil Murphy announced last week an extension to the current moratorium on utility shut-offs. The moratorium, which was initially scheduled to end on March 15, will be extended through June 30.
The utilities that can’t be disconnected are residential gas, electric, and water utilities, both public and private. These utilities will also not be permitted to charge late fees or fees to reconnect services that were once disconnected.
In addition to these utility requirements, the moratorium extension applies to cable and telecommunication providers as well. These providers are prohibited from disconnecting Internet services in households with a school-age child or multiple school-age children who have to use such services for educational purposes. Additionally, if a household experiences changes in circumstances where a school-age child was not previously using Internet services for school but now requires them, the cable and telecommunications companies must reconnect that Internet service free of charge.
“This extension, along with our prior extension, is the right thing to do to help New Jerseyans who are struggling to make ends meet,” Gov. Murphy said in a press release.
In May 2020,NJ.com reported that more than one million New Jersey workers were out of work due to the pandemic. Furthermore, 88,000 New Jersey workers filed for unemployment insurance benefits, meaning that at that time, 640,000 state residents were receiving unemployment benefits.
These statistics only worsened, leading to $600 million in unpaid gas and electric bills through New Jersey. According to Public Service Electric and Gas, about 77% of residential accounts that are more than 90 days behind on paying their utility bills are residents who are not projected to be low-income customers and have previously always met the threshold.
The President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, Joseph L. Fiordaliso, encourages residents of New Jersey to use this time during the extended moratorium period to reach out to their utility companies and set up a deferred payment plan or to contact the BPU and enroll in one of several assistance plans.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.