March 24th, 2022
Highland Park — Today Renee Koubiadis, Anti-Poverty Program Director for New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA), released the following statement on the passage of S2356 /A3671.
“More than 1 million New Jerseyans are $700,000,000 in arrears in utility bills, due to lost wages, increased expenses, the illness or death of a family member due to COVID, and other economic factors. S2356 /A3671 gives state residents the time they need to apply for critical utility assistance programs such as LIHEAP, LIHWAP, and the Universal Service Fund and its Fresh Start program. In fact, the Fresh Start program with its temporary expanded eligibility, could potentially pay for all of consumers’ arrears that occurred during the pandemic.
“The extra 60 days protection from shut-off for all gas, electric, water and sewer service once an application is submitted, and the 90 days of protection while the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) is processing applications, are especially critical because too many New Jerseyans are unaware of all eligibility benefits, including assistance which only became available in March. We applaud the Legislature for passing this, and thank especially legislative champions Senators Brian Stack, Vin Gopal, and Linda Greenstein, and Assemblypersons Raj Mukherji, Cleopatra Tucker, Paul Moriarty, and Britnee Timberlake.
In the summer months, data shows that more consumers without utilities die in the heat without air conditioning or fans than in the cold of winter without heating. With the expiration of the utility shut-off moratorium last week, we urge Governor Murphy to sign this legislation as soon as possible, and call for the use of all resources public and private to promote the benefits of this bill and all the utility assistance programs available to New Jerseyans.”