TRENTON — Struggling families won’t find themselves in the dark or cold during the pandemic after Gov. Phil Murphy extended the moratorium on gas, electric and water utility shut-offs until next year.

Murphy’s executive order also prevents internet service providers from shutting off service to homes where students are getting remote schooling.

“Our message to residents is clear: As this pandemic and economic fallout continues, we will continue to have your back,” Murphy said. “As the winter months get closer and closer, no one should fear losing the ability to heat their home.”

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The moratorium, however, doesn’t mean ratepayers get off scot-free: they’ll eventually have to pay back what they owe but utilities will have to set up repayment plans that last at least 12 months.

Joe Fiordaliso, president of the Board of public Utilities, said that some utility companies already were willing to do whatever Murphy asked but some utilities owned by out-of-state corporations asked for “stronger action by the state so they could sell it to their mother companies.”

The utility shutoff moratorium for non-payment will last through March 15. The internet and phone moratorium lasts through Nov. 15 unless the home has remote-learning schoolchildren, in which case the moratorium would continue until March 15 as well.

Fiordaliso pointed out that March 15 already would be the end of the traditional winter moratorium on shut-offs that utilities observed before the pandemic.

New Jersey on Thursday reported 973 new cases of COVID-19 and six new deaths for a total of at least 14,408 deaths. Hospitals were treating 733 COVID-19 patients, with 178 in intensive care and 60 requiring ventilators. Coronavirus cases in New Jersey have been increasing for about a week and the state’s numbers mean that New Jersey would be placed on its own travel-restriction list with 38 other states and U.S. jurisdictions.

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