Introduces legislation to use federal Rescue funds to offset Covid-caused affordability problems
TRENTON – Aiming to help residents unable to pay their utility bills because of pandemic-caused financial problems, Senator Joe Cryan introduced legislation to make use of federal funds from the recently-enacted “American Rescue Plan” to provide bill payment assistance to individuals in need.
“In the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the financial and employment status of many New Jerseyans,” said Senator Cryan (D-Union). “As a result, people have struggled to pay their bills, including basic services such as utilities. While there is a moratorium in place to give residents more time to pay, the debts won’t go away when it is lifted. They will face unaffordable costs. Adding to the problem is the fact that utilities will be unable to absorb the costs of all the past due bills, hurting more people in the long run.”
The bill, S-3601, would appropriate funds provided to the State by the federal government under the “American Rescue Plan” to provide bill payment assistance for residential electric, heating, water, wastewater, Internet, and voice telecommunication customers.
“This bill will be crucial in assisting taxpayers to pay back some of the amount they owe without having to continue to fall behind on additional payments for other utilities,” said Senator Cryan. “By creating a regulated forgiveness program, we can ensure that low-income customers will not continue to be hurt by this system after the pandemic subsides.”
Under the bill, the Department of Community Affairs will assess the financial needs and determine the available funds. If the available ARP are not enough to cover the need, the DCA will make use of other federal funds or seek state appropriations.