N.J. utility moratorium to end Tuesday. Here’s how to get help. – NJ.com

The state’s moratorium that banned the shutoff of overdue energy accounts expires Tuesday.
Gov. Phil Murphy enacted the ban when the pandemic started and it’s been extended numerous times, most recently in December.
But after Tuesday, tomorrow, utility companies can send shutoff notices to delinquent customers.
Even though the moratorium is coming to an end, there’s help out there for consumers who have fallen behind on their bills. And more families than before may qualify because of expanded eligibility limits.
A family of four with an income of $105,000 a year can qualify for Universal Service Fund Program (USF), while a family of four with income of about $77,000 a year would be eligible for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Energy providers have been asking customers who are behind to apply to the programs before the moratorium ends.
PSE&G, which has 2.2 million residential customers in New Jersey, said only 10% of customers who were behind had applied for help as of mid-February. At that time, about 275,000 of its residential customers were 90 days or more behind on their bills — double what it would normally see at this time of year — owing a collective $331 million.
“In the past month, calls to our customer service line and visits to customer service centers have increased significantly,” said spokeswoman Rebecca Mazzarella. “In anticipation of the increased call volume, we have doubled the number of agents available to support customers on the phone. And as of this week, PSE&G has reopened all of their customer service centers to offer customers in-person personal assistance.”
JCP&L said as of March 1, nearly 100,000 of its residential customers are more than 30 days past due, with debts totaling $78.8 million — a 35% increase from February 2021. More than 60,000 of those accounts are 90 days or more overdue, the company said.
Atlantic City Electric, which as 560,000 residential customers, said 100,650 customers were 30 or more days behind as of the end of February, and only 18,037 had established payment arrangements.
Across the state, during this federal fiscal year, which runs from October 2021 through September 2022, nearly 282,994 households applied to the programs through March 14, and nearly 219,033 households have received funding, said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Affairs.
The program has paid out an average of $368 per family for a total of $83.53 million, she said.
That compares to payouts of nearly $127 million in 2021, or $572 per family, and more than $100 million in 2020, or $469 per family.
The LIHEAP application is open until June 30, 2022, and the application automatically enters you in review for the USF program. You can apply online at energyassistance.nj.gov or you can get help from an authorized local community action agency or community-based organization.
To be eligible for LIHEAP benefits, you must have gross income at or below 60% of the state median income, in the chart below or on the Division of Community Affairs website.
To learn more about both programs, you can call (800) 510-3102.
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Karin Price Mueller may be reached at KPriceMueller@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @KPMueller.
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