CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — With inflation continuing to take a toll on Americans’ finances, New Jersey politicians are worried about those who are behind on their utility bills. They say hundreds of thousands of customers could soon have their utilities shut off.
As Eyewitness News was filming in a Camden neighborhood, “Maria B” drove up to check in on her parents and check out what we were doing on their street.READ MORE: First-Of-Its-Kind Program At Crozer-Chester Medical Center Encouraging Minority Students To Pursue STEM Careers
Unable to work after a car crash, she shared how tough it’s been to afford anything — from gas to utilities.
“Oh, it’s awful,” she said. “Especially now with the summer, you have to turn the air on. The air conditioning itself, it’s high on its own.”
Eyewitness News told her why we were here. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities was a few blocks away, signing people up for state programs to help pay their utility bills.
“I just need to know where I need to sign up, where to go, how to get started. I need to get on that list ASAP,” Maria said.
The list of New Jerseyans behind on their bills is long. The Board of Public Utilities says 900,000 people are in arrears owing a combined total of $700 million, and Gov. Phil Murphy’s pandemic order preventing providers from shutting off power ends next Tuesday.READ MORE: Man Killed In Road Rage Shooting In Springfield Identified, Authorities Say
“We can help them. They don’t need to be shut off,” New Jersey Public Utilities Board President Joe Fiordaliso said.
Fiordaliso says people who apply for assistance before June 14 can avoid a shutoff, but as for the number of people who’ve signed up, “not as many as we anticipated quite honestly.”
“My thinking is a lot of people are waiting for the endpoint here,” Fiordaliso said.
Fiordaliso says utility companies have sent out mailers and the board’s been holding events like this one, yet it took meeting a TV crew for Maria B to get help for her and her parents.
“I truly think it’s a great idea, especially for those who are disabled,” Maria said. “It’ll work a lot in their favor.”MORE NEWS: 'We're Serious With This': Strike Of Casino Workers In Atlantic City Expected Amid Wage Negotiation
To apply for assistance, click here. The deadline is June 14.