By: Helena Perray, Follow South Jersey Community Resources Intern
TRENTON, N.J. — During Monday’s COVID-19 briefing, Governor Phil Murphy announced the signing of an executive order that will bring New Jersey’s utility moratorium to an end on of July 1.
Although the moratorium is set to end in just a few weeks, Gov. Murphy has implemented a grace period in its place that will last until December 31. This period will serve as further utility shutoff protection for state residents who need time to apply for payment assistance plans before the end of the calendar year.
New Jersey’s state assistance programs can be found here.
According to Gov. Murphy, this policy follows legislation signed earlier in the month that called for an end to the state’s public health emergency and maintained that multiple executive orders – such as the utility moratorium – would last through December 2021. It would also provide further support to hundreds of thousands of struggling New Jerseyans facing utility outages.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to work with their utility provider on payment options that will ensure these vital, and in some cases, life-preserving, services be maintained,” Gov. Murphy said during the briefing.
According to Gov. Murphy, households that have residential internet service accounts that are being used for educational purposes by school-age children will also remain protected from disconnection as part of the utility grace period.
“We fully expect every utility provider to work with their customers in good faith,” Gov. Murphy said. “… Many of our impacted families are just now getting their financial feet back under them after a very, very tough year. Plus, they deserve empathy, support, and forbearance. And we expect nothing less.”
Utility assistance is an eligible use of the $6 billion-plus in American Rescue Plan funds provided to the state, according to Gov. Murphy. During the grace period, state officials will work together to further determine the most useful deployment of these funds in helping struggling families statewide.
The grace period will end in the winter during the state’s annual gas and electric moratorium for certain senior and low-income households.
“Those impacted families will be further protected through the middle of march of next year, Gov. Murphy said. “Now that the public health emergency declaration has been lifted, it is proper for us to begin to restore our utility marketplace. But, again, we are going to maintain strong consumer protections as families get back on their feet.”
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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.