NJ lawmaker’s ideas to help residents pay utility bills during tough times
It's no secret that the economic impact of COVID-19 has left many New Jersey families struggling financially. To bring some relief to state residents, a North Jersey assemblyman has introduced a legislative package he says would allow everyone to share in the state's economic recovery.
Assemblyman Gary Schaer, D-Passaic, has introduced a three-bill package that focuses on utility relief. The first bill would require that utility companies inform all of their customers, at least on a quarterly basis, about all the programs and discounts that they offer.
The second bill is aimed at people who have had their utilities shut off due to non-payment. It requires that at least a 12-month repayment plan be adopted.
The third bill demands that during and within 180 days of a major public health emergency, utilities are prohibited from increasing rates and assessing late or restoration fees or charges.
Schaer said he's passionate about these bills because his district has residents of varying income levels. Schaer said he constantly hears stories from both the wealthy and poor who continue to struggle during the pandemic and making the choice each month of whether to put food on the table or pay the utility bill.
"People are in that much pain and that much need right now. We need to find realistic solutions for them. We think that each of these programs recognizes the difficulties they are confronting, provides a meaningful way to solve them, without disrupting the marketplace," said Schaer.
He also made it clear that it's important to recognize that right now people cannot pay their bills in New Jersey. So the state needs to allow these people to get back on their feet. The utility companies will get paid, he added. Other areas and segments of the economy such as rent, will find other ways to make everyone whole.