Utility Shutoff Moratorium Extension is the Right Move
Murphy’s executive action puts a spotlight on New Jersey’s water debt crisis
Today, Governor Phil Murphy announced that he would extend the state’s moratorium on utility shutoffs through the end of June.
Food & Water Watch New Jersey State Director Matt Smith released the following statement in response:
“Extending the shutoff moratorium is the right move, both for the sake of protecting public health and to provide some relief to families struggling with economic hardship caused by the pandemic.
“It is clear that water debt has grown to unmanageable levels during the pandemic. Data collected by the Board of Public Utilities shows that water debt increased by 47 percent from 2019 to 2020, and at least 147,000 households were 30 or may days behind on their payments.
“The existing moratorium saved 37,000 New Jersey households from losing their service during the COVID crisis– and most likely saved lives. Researchers from Duke University found that moratoria on utility disconnections reduced COVID infections by 4.4 percent and mortality rates by 7.4 percent.
“New Jersey must make fundamental changes before this moratorium is lifted. We need comprehensive data collection on shutoffs and water debt, as well as new income-based affordability programs with water debt forgiveness. The BPU must also prohibit utilities from profiteering off of emergency costs associated with the COVID crisis, and it should craft permanent policies to prevent water shutoffs in the future.”