October 18, 2020
In an effort to protect households who may be financially impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey is preventing utilities from being disconnected through at least March 15, 2021.
The moratorium, which initially went into place earlier in the public health crisis, applies to all public and private residential, gas, electric, and water utilities. Utilities will not be charging late fees or fees to reconnect services that have been disconnected since March.
The ban on internet disconnections has also been extended until November 15. Cable and telecommunications providers are prohibited from disconnecting service in households that have one or more children using the internet for school. They’re also required to reconnect such services if a household with children needs the internet for education purposes.
Following the expiration of the moratorium on Nov. 15, cable and telecommunications providers must enroll customers in an interest-free payment plan of at least 12 monthly installments prior to disconnecting the service.
Customers should still set up payment plans with their utilities so they can pay their bills over a period of time — if they are able to. They’re also encouraged to apply for assistance programs available through the state’s Board of Public Utilities and Department of Community Affairs, as well as from their utility providers.
The state is also providing $15 million in coronavirus relief funding to the Department of Community Affairs in order to reduce utility charges for low-income households.
“New Jerseyans are hurting and many of our fellow state residents, who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, need help,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
“Extending the utility moratorium is the right thing to do as so many in our state struggle to pay their bills during one of the most devastating economic crises in the history of our country. As we enter the winter months it becomes even more imperative that we work with our state’s utilities to keep the lights on and families warm.”
Most utility companies agreed to put holds on service shutoffs earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. All municipal and private-sector water companies voluntarily halted all service disconnections until the public health crisis is over.
The state announced in April that anyone who could not afford to pay their internet and phone bills would not lose service during the COVID-19 pandemic. It prohibited providers from pulling service due to nonpayment.
Any internet or phone service that had been disconnected since March 16 had to be reconnected. The ban initially lasted until 30 days after the state’s public health emergency ends.
Additionally, any service downgrades, reductions or late fees due to nonpayment had to be halted unless approved otherwise by the Board of Public Utilities.