New NJ law: Late utility payments should not be punished by death
NEWARK — Saying that late utility payments shouldn't mean a death sentence, Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed into a law a measure that prevents utility companies from automatically shutting off power to customers who require life-sustaining equipment.
Linda's Law is named after Linda Daniels, a 68-year-old city woman who died a year to the day on Thursday after PSE&G cut her power in the middle of heat wave. Daniels breathed with the support of an oxygen tank.
An investigative report commissioned by the utility company concluded in October that the company was at fault for not restoring the power after several relatives made representatives aware of the woman's medical condition.
The company said Daniels' account was in arrears but the family showed they had paid PSE&G $500 days before the power was shut off.
"Although several members of the Daniels family called PSE&G multiple times throughout the day to reiterate the details of the life-threatening emergency, PSE&G employees failed to take steps to compensate effectively for the initial errors and to restore electric service in a timely fashion," the utility's hired attorney said.
“No one should fear losing their life because their electricity bill is a few days overdue,” Murphy said Friday. “Linda’s Law will protect residents who rely upon electricity to support their medical equipment.”
The law requires utilities to wait 90 days before cutting service because of nonpayment by customers who require power for their medical devices. The utilities will have to request information from customers regarding their medical needs twice a year.
“Being late on your bills should not be life-threatening,” state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, said. “Unfortunately for Linda Daniels, discontinuing power to her home cut off her oxygen. This should never have been acceptable in America, and certainly not in New Jersey. No number of missed utility payments should ever have been lethal and hopefully with this legislation, it will never be again.”
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email email@example.com.