Utility companies will resume service shutoffs for nonpayment after December 31, 2021.
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) today mailed out letters to approximately 350,000 households with overdue electric and natural gas bills to notify them that they are potentially eligible for assistance to pay their utility arrearages. The Department urges people who receive a letter to act quickly and immediately apply for help since the assistance is available for a limited time only.
The letters mailed out today contain a QR code that households can scan with their smartphone to access a State website to apply for utility relief. The letter also includes a web address and toll-free phone number for those households that don’t have a smartphone or internet.
Households will have one month from the time they receive the letter to complete the application form and certify that a COVID-related hardship affected their ability to pay for electric and/or gas bills. If found eligible, households will receive credits on their utility accounts.
Approximately $375 million in federal funding has been allocated for utility arrearages. Sixty percent of the allocation is coming from legislation (S-3691) Governor Murphy signed into law on August 4, 2021. The remainder is from Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding set aside specifically for utility arrears.
For those households that are current on their utility bills, but are still in need of assistance, the LIHEAP and New Jersey Universal Service Fund (USF) program application period opened on October 1, 2021. New Jersey residents can apply online by visiting https://njdca-housing.dynamics365portals.us/en-US/dcaid-services/. To find out if they’re eligible for this assistance, people can use the completely anonymous online screening tool called DCAid by visiting nj.gov/dca/dcaid.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program that helps households at or below 60 percent of the state median income ($6,439 a month for a family of four) pay for energy costs (electric, gas, deliverable fuels and those included in rent). The Universal Service Fund (USF) program provides a monthly credit on electric and gas bills for households at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($8,833 a month for a family of four).
Also, the Lifeline Utility Assistance Program, which is administered by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, provides an annual $225 grant for electric and gas costs to seniors and the disabled. The grant appears as a credit on a utility bill or is included in a recipient’s Supplemental Security Income check. Income limits for this program are set at less than $28,769 for a single person or at $35,270 if married.
On Tuesday, October 19, 2021, the New Jersey Utility Energy Outreach Group will hold a virtual Utility Assistance Summit from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. At this event you can learn from utility assistance experts about New Jersey’s expanded utility grant and debt forgiveness programs for low-income and now also moderate-income households.
Officials from natural gas, electric and water utilities, along with government and industry leaders will discuss assistance program updates, increased income guidelines and how to maximize expanded resources for the benefit of our communities.
Speakers from the Affordable Housing Alliance, NJ SHARES, NJBPU and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs will share valuable information about free and newly available resources. NJBPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso will be the keynote speaker.
Register here for the Utility Assistance Summit.