(The Center Square) – Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation to extend New Jersey’s utility shutoff grace period.
S-4081 extends the grace period Murphy established with Executive Order No. 246 from Dec. 31 until March 15, 2022. The grace period applies to water, municipal electric and sewer customers.
“The goal of this law is to give individuals an extended grace period to be able to pay those bills without the threat of losing their water,” state Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D-Camden/Gloucester, said in an announcement.
The measure mandates that utilities offer a 12-month, no down payment and interest-free payment plan to customers before disconnecting service or imposing liens for non-payment accrued since the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Through our extension of the utility shutoff grace period, we are giving customers an additional opportunity to work with their utility provider to enroll in an equitable payment option that ensures their critical, and in some cases life-preserving, services remain in operation,” Murphy said in an announcement.
Under the legislation, the Department of Community Affairs will launch a Winter Termination Program for water, sewer and municipal electric customers. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) will also include water and sewer public utilities in its Winter Termination Program.
The programs will take effect in the 2022-23 winter season.
The expansion “means more households will have the opportunity to contact their utilities to set up a payment plan or to apply for one of the many assistance programs the state has available,” NJBPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso said in an announcement.
The state Assembly and the state Senate passed the bill unanimously this week.
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