Legislation sponsored by Senator Kristin Corrado that would help more struggling households get assistance with their water bills has been signed into law.
Sen. Kristin Corrado’s bill that would help more struggling households get assistance with their water bills has been signed into law. (Pixabay)
“With the passage of this law we are putting money into the hands of New Jerseyans who need help paying their water bills. The federal government provided $24 million dollars to fund the state’s Low Income Household Water Assistance Program but millions of dollars remained unspent as most water and sewer companies did not participate in the program,” said Corrado (R-40). “This law puts a plan in place to encourage more water and sewer companies to engage in the state’s water assistance program. By boosting participation in the program, more eligible homeowners can receive assistance before we reach the September deadline.”
The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) is a federal program established under the American Rescue Plan to provide financial assistance to water service providers who service low- and medium-income households that have fallen behind on their payments.
At the state level, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) is responsible for administering the program and has until September to distribute the remaining funds. To receive funds, however, water service providers must enter a vendor contract with the DCA.
Senator Corrado’s bill, S-3333, requires water companies to participate in the program and temporarily prohibits water service providers from taking certain actions against a household for unpaid bills.
The law states that water service providers who fail to participate in the program or do not allow eligible customers to receive assistance would be prohibited from shutting off water services for customers who have fallen behind on their payments until October 1, 2023.
Additionally, local authorities and municipal utilities who do not participate in the program would be prohibited from placing a lien on a customer’s property to satisfy an overdue balance.
Water service providers would also be instructed to inform customers of their eligibility to participate in the LIHWAP through customer bills, posting on the water utility’s website, and through any written communication in connection to an unpaid bill.
The bill also requires the DCA to send bi-weekly reports to water service providers regarding customer applications until the LIHWAP program is terminated.
Any company, local authority, or municipal utility that violates the prohibitions under the new law would be subject to a monetary penalty.
“No family in New Jersey should be withheld from accessing clean water in New Jersey because of their income,” Corrado added. “As legislators it is our moral obligation to ensure that the millions of dollars provided for this water assistance program go to families that are in need. This law will now provide immediate help for low-income families that are struggling to pay their water bills.”
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