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New Jersey committee advances legislation to help New Jerseyans with their water bills

The New Jersey Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee has advanced a bill to extend the grace period barring utility shutoffs.

In June, Gov. Phil Murphy issued Executive Order No. 246 to give residential customers a grace period to make sewer and water services payments. A-6115 would extend the grace period to March 15, 2022; it currently expires on Dec. 31.

It also requires the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to establish a Winter Termination Program.

“Having reliable water services is a necessity for every New Jersey resident,” Assemblymember Annette Quijano, D-Union, said in a statement. “Currently, the electricity and heat people need to survive cold weather are protected from being cut off during the winter if people cannot pay their bills. The water people need to survive should not be cut off during this time either.

“Even though the public health emergency has ended, many people are still getting back on their feet and need additional support,” Quijano added. “This bill will give people more time to make utility payments and will allow families to focus on everyday decisions without having to worry about their water shutting off.”

Meanwhile, a group of state lawmakers wants to allocate $75 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) money to help some households reduce the cost of water services.

A-5994 would require the DCA commissioner to establish the “Household Water Assistance Program.” It would also prevent the disconnection of water services and restore them to those who cannot pay.

“Every resident in New Jersey deserves access to safe, sufficient, and affordable water and sanitation,” Assembly members Anthony Verrelli, D-Hunterdon/Mercer; Angela V. McKnight, D-Hudson; and Benjie Wimberly, D-Bergen/Passaic, said in a joint statement.

“For far too many low-income residents, the cost of basic water and sewer services exceeds four percent of their household income,” the lawmakers added. “No one should be subject to potential health issues due to unsanitary conditions. This measure is necessary to ensure safe water and sanitation is accessible to all.”

Both measures head to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, for further consideration.

This article was originally posted on New Jersey committee advances legislation to help New Jerseyans with their water bills

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