N.J. coronavirus update: Utility shutoff moratorium will end July 1

The moratorium on utility shutoffs will formally end on July 1. But that does not mean people who are behind on their bills will lose service right away.

A utility crew member works the lines against a cotton candy sky

A utility crew member works the lines. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Updated: 8:10 p.m.

New Jersey officials reported Monday an additional 260 new COVID-19 cases, raising the overall total to 1,019,794. The rate of transmission is currently at 0.90.

An additional five mortalities were also reported, raising the overall death toll to 23,649.

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As of 10 p.m. Monday, there were 361 hospitalizations of confirmed or suspected COVID patients across the state; 86 are in intensive care, 54 are on ventilators.

The state Health Department is reporting that 4,564,662 fully vaccinated residents. Gov. Phil Murphy said that he was “no longer in doubt” about whether the state will reach its goal of 4.7 million fully vaccinated adults by the end of June.

Utility shutoff moratorium to end in July

Murphy announced Monday that the moratorium on utility shutoffs will end July 1. The moratorium had been in place since last April.

At that time, a grace period will be put in place to allow people who are behind on their bills to make payment arrangements.

“Please allow me to be very perfectly clear … No one will face disconnection of their gas, electric or water services before the end of the grace period on Dec. 31, 2021,” Murphy said.

The governor added that internet service used by school-aged children for educational purposes will also be protected from disconnection.

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Recognizing that some Garden State residents have had a tough 15 months and are just getting back on their feet financially, the governor said they deserve “empathy, support and forbearance.”

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to work with their utility provider on payment options that will ensure these vital — and in some cases life-preserving services — be maintained,” he said, adding that the state expects providers to work with customers in good faith.

Murphy said the end of the grace period falls during the annual winter moratorium on utility shutoffs for certain residents, including seniors and low-income families. That will provide further protection from utility shutoffs through at least mid-March 2022.

The new executive order lifting the shutoff moratorium coincides with the end of the public health emergency. Legislation that allowed the governor to end the emergency also allowed for some of his executive orders, like the utility shutoff moratorium, to stay in place until Jan. 1, 2022.

With the public health emergency order lifted, the governor said it is “proper” to begin restoring the utility market. However, he said, the state will maintain strong consumer protections as people continue to recover financially.

When asked about the eviction moratorium, he said there was “no news” to be made on it, but hopes to come to a resolution on it with similar elements to his announcement ending the utility shutoff moratorium.

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