The state Board of Public Utilities is reminding the state's utility customers who are eligible for its annual Winter Termination Program to take advantage of it now.

The program is running until March 15 and protects families during the coldest months in New Jersey, ensuring that their heat remains until the spring.

All customers who enroll in the Winter Termination Program are required to set up a 12-month budget payment plan with their utility and should make every effort to post payments while enrolled in the program.

BPU President Joseph Fiordaliso said that while service cannot be terminated during the winter moratorium, customers are still responsible for their utility bill balance once the program ends on March 15.

Customers who receive benefits from certain government assistance programs are eligible to enroll in the Winter Termination program. These programs include Lifeline Credit, Federal Home Energy Assistance, Work First New Jersey-Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Federal Supplemental Security Income, Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled, Work First New Jersey/General Assistance Benefits and Universal Service Fund.

The program is also available for customers who fall into a "catch-all" category of those unable to pay their utility bills because of circumstances beyond their control. Maybe they lost their job, can't work because of illness or the wage-earner in the family died.

"That's the kind of society I want to live in when someone is down on their luck and we, as a society, come to their aid, even if it's on a temporary basis so they can get through those difficult times," said Fiordaliso.

More information on this program can be found on the NJBPU website at www.bpu.state.nj.us/bpu/assistance/programs/.

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