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April 13, 2020

New Jersey internet, phone providers barred from removing service amid COVID-19 crisis

Utilities Coronavirus
Internet phone service executive order new jersey coronavirus covid-19 NordWood Themes/via Unsplash

New Jersey internet and phone service providers cannot shut off service amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to an executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy

New Jersey residents who cannot afford to pay their internet and phone bills will not lose service during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Monday prohibiting providers from pulling service due to nonpayment. Any internet or phone service that has been disconnected due since March 16 must be reconnected. The ban lasts until 30 days after the state’s public health emergency ends.

Additionally, any service downgrades, reductions or late fees due to nonpayment must be halted unless approved otherwise by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, according to the order.  

“Most of our service providers voluntarily took these steps, in accordance with FCC policy, to protect their customers during this difficult time, and we are grateful for their partnership,”Murphy said. “However, these policies have been implemented inconsistently among companies, so today we are prohibiting the termination of internet and voice services due to nonpayment during this time. 

"Our children need internet access for remote learning, our workforce needs the resources to telework, and families need to be able to keep each other informed. It is critical for our New Jersey residents to maintain these connections and not have their ability to communicate with the outside world severed.”

New Jersey announced 3,219 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 64,584, including 2,443 deaths. Only New York has more cases and deaths.

The protections placed on internet and phone services are the latest actions Murphy has taken to assist people who are experiencing financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Hundreds of thousands workers have either lost their jobs or seen their hours slashed due to the pandemic. Murphy signed an executive order last month indefinitely shutting down all non-essential businesses.

As a result, New Jersey is providing financial relief through the state's earned sick leave law — which covers public health emergencies. Residents who are eligible for unemployment insurance will receive an additional $600 in benefits through July.

New Jersey has also created a special jobs bank during the coronavirus outbreak with over 49,000 openings across the state for those looking for work. The New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved $75 million in financial support aimed at helping small and mid-size businesses affected by the crisis. 

Murphy also implemented a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments and a 60-day eviction program for state residents. New Jersey residents have a 60-day grace period for health and dental insurance policies, and a 90-day grace period for home and auto insurance, renters insurance, life insurance, and premium-financing arrangements.

All municipal and private-sector water companies voluntarily halted all service shut-offs until the pandemic is over.

The deadline to file individual and corporate state income taxes has been pushed back to July 15.

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