Gov. Murphy extends moratorium on utility shutoffs during pandemic
Gov. Phil Murphy has issued an executive order that puts an extension on utility payments during the pandemic, and extends the voluntary moratorium on gas, electric and utility shutoffs.
“As the winter months get closer and closer, no one should fear losing the ability to heat their home,” Murphy said Thursday. “If there is any customer whose service has been disconnected during the public health emergency, this order requires that their service be restored.
Board of Public Utilities president Joe Fiordaliso joined the governor at his COVID-19 media briefing.
“We can make them do it, but it’s always nice if things are done on a voluntary basis,” Fiordaliso said.
Click or tap the photo to view the full news conference
Fiordaliso says convincing some companies was easier than others.
“I make those displeasures known when I'm talking to them individually. And honestly, they don't want us to be annoyed with them – whoever they are – and come around. But some are more difficult, no question,” he said.
A similar moratorium on internet or phone services is extended just one more month.
“Internet shutoffs will not be permitted in any household in which there are school-aged children who need connectivity for remote learning through March 15, 2021,” Murphy said.
“This is of paramount importance. We want our children to continue to learn. We want folks who are working from home, working remotely, to continue to earn a living,” the BPU president said.
But if these moratoriums decrease utility company profits, they could ask for gas, electric or water rate raises that would impact customers next year.
“Maybe most folks don’t understand or realizes this, by law – not by what Joe Fiordaliso says or the BPU says – by law, they’re entitled to make a certain rate of return on their money,” Fiordaliso said. “So, it’s a balancing act: what’s fair to the company and what’s fair to the ratepayer.”
The moratoriums are only temporary to get through the COVID-19 crisis.
“Set up a payment plan, because ultimately and eventually, moratoriums are going to end,” Fiordaliso says.
The executive order also prohibits utility companies from charging late fees or fees to reconnect services that have been disconnected.