NJ utility companies can shut off services as of Dec. 31
Utility companies soon will be able to resume planning shutoffs for customers severely behind on their bills, as Gov. Phil Murphy has ended the pandemic-prompted moratorium as of July 1, by another executive order.
However, no one would face a utility disconnection before Dec. 31, Murphy said at the state briefing on Monday.
There would be a grace period through year’s end in order to get consumers enrolled in payment plans for gas, electric, water, internet and phone services as needed, he said.
Connectivity for remote school instruction, specifically internet access, would remain protected for households through this year.
The governor's previous directive on pausing utility shutoffs was among 14 executive orders included in legislation that he signed on June 4, which ended the public health emergency.
That extended all 14 orders through Jan. 1, 2022, while noting each "can be modified or rescinded prior to that date by the Governor."
Murphy said that the New Year's Eve date for resuming shutoffs was about “realizing that we’re going surely but slowly, equitably, responsibly back to some sense of normalcy,” when asked at the Monday briefing.
Nearly six months ago, at the end of 2020, the Board of Public Utilities reported that companies statewide were owed close to $650 million in "overdue" payments from residential and commercial customers, nearly double a year earlier.
When asked if there would be any change to the eviction moratorium, Murphy said there was no news as of Monday, as that issue continued to be worked on for both tenants as well as small landlords.
The governor also noted that it would be worth exploring the use of some federal American Rescue Plan money for those behind on either utilities or rent, meant as relief for landlords, too.
The pandemic continues to ebb, as the statewide rate of transmission was currently 0.90 on Monday, while the positivity rate from June 10 was 1.01%.
As of Sunday night, there were 361 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, the lowest level statewide in more than a year.
Similarly low levels were on Aug. 21, when there were 397 COVID hospitalizations and Sept. 6, when there were 389 COVID hospitalizations.
As of Monday, there were 4.56 million fully vaccinated people in New Jersey, while 5.14 million people had received at least one vaccine dose.