New Jersey winter termination program ends for the season Friday

A seasonal program that prevents utility shutoffs in New Jersey ends on Friday.

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

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

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A program that protects thousands of New Jersey residents struggling to pay water, sewer and electric bills from being disconnected during colder months ends for the season on Friday.

The state’s Winter Termination Program, which runs from Nov. 15 to March 15, prevents utility shutoffs for households that are past due on their bills.

Residents are still responsible for their bills, and after Friday could be at risk of being disconnected from their services, or face a lien sale on their home.

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Larry Levine, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, advises residents to contact their provider for assistance.

“They may be able to offer a payment plan to be able to pay based on what you’re able to afford,” he said.

Levine added residents seeking financial assistance should call 2-1-1, or reach out to the nonprofit NJ Shares, which helps those who may not qualify for state-run assistance programs.

There are several assistance programs that help people pay their gas and electric bills, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program. However, Levine said water assistance programs are few and far between.

“Water bills and sewer are rising around the state and around the country as well … [but] there is no permanent program now for water assistance, and that leaves people at risk of being disconnected from their water service if they can’t afford to pay the bill,” he said. “And no one should lose access to water simply because they can’t afford to pay the bill.”

A COVID-era program known as the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program helped about 13,000 New Jersey households with water bills last year. However, that program is out of funding.

Levine urges state and federal lawmakers to create ongoing programs to reduce water bills, and for water providers to ensure water rates are distributed in a fair and equitable way.

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