Residents who are having trouble catching up on utility bills can take advantage of newly passed legislation that extends additional shut-off assistance and payment plans to those who apply to a state-sponsored program by June 14, 2022.
If a customer experiences a utility disconnection, they can be reconnected if they apply for a utility assistance program. Several of the State’s utility assistance programs have significantly increased their income limits so that more households can access these benefits for electric, gas, water and sewer.
“Time is running out for anyone who is behind on their utility bills to make arrangements before their service is disconnected,” said NJBPU President Joseph Fiordaliso. “If individuals with overdue balances apply for an assistance program by June 14, their service will not be disconnected while their application is pending. Individuals may also contact their utility to set up a payment plan. We don’t want to see anyone lose their service, so we are hopeful everyone who is behind on their bill will take action this week.”
Changes made to the State Universal Service Program (USF) included raising the income limits from 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 400 percent FPL. For a family of four, the income limit for USF is now $106,000 annually. Other changes include raising monthly USF benefit caps to $180 and enrolling any USF customer with an overdue balance of $60 or more into the State’s energy debt forgiveness program “Fresh Start.”
Statewide, there are more than 903,000 residential gas and electric customers who collectively owe more than $700 million, much of which is a result of economic hardships brought on by the impact of the COVID pandemic. There are also more than 156,000 overdue residential water accounts, which owe nearly $50 million.
Those who would like to apply for assistance are invited to go to DCA’s website to apply online or go to www.energyassistance.nj.gov for detailed program information.