(TRENTON) - The New Jersey Department of the Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Administration (UPA) presented the Affordable Housing Alliance with a check this week for $1.78 million to help provide assistance to low and moderate income New Jersey households struggling to pay their utility bills.
“No family should have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping the lights on or the heat running, particularly at this time of year when a lack of heat can be life-threatening,” said State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio. “Our Unclaimed Property Administration works tirelessly all year long to recover and safeguard funds that help support this vital program for the benefit of struggling families throughout New Jersey.”
Under state statute, unclaimed deposits received from electric and gas utilities are placed in the Unclaimed Utility Deposits Trust Fund. Each year, 75 percent of the funds received are issued to a statewide non-profit energy assistance organization designated by the Board of Public Utilities.
“Utility costs are a challenge for many struggling families all year long,” said UPA Administrator Steve Harris. “With temperatures plummeting and heating costs likely to soar, this relief couldn’t come at a better time. It’s extremely rewarding to see the funds we manage help support such a worthy cause.”
State law stipulates that the funds must be used exclusively for the payment of expenses associated with the restoration of electric or gas service, or to prevent the termination of electric or gas service provided to utility ratepayers seeking energy assistance. The remaining portion is retained in the trust fund, administered and invested by the State Treasurer, and used to pay Unclaimed Property claims and expenses and costs incurred by the State of New Jersey.
“These funds serve those who find themselves in temporary financial need such as those recently impacted by the government shutdown, families who lost wages due to events like the Marcal factory fire or catastrophic health issues that resulted in loss of income,” said Donna Blaze, CEO of the Affordable Housing Alliance. “Providing payments of up to $750 per utility directly to the gas and electric companies for struggling families has significantly reduced the stress on nearly 5,000 families a year during hard times. Our biggest barrier to increasing the use of these funds is the assumption that if a family is working they are not eligible so we urge everyone to check eligibility requirements. It is too cold not to have heat and power and New Jersey has one of the most comprehensive continuum of utility assistance for its residents. We are proud to have been selected to administer these programs.”
The Affordable Housing Alliance (AHA) urges residents to visit www.njpoweron.org and check eligibility requirements for the many programs offered.
The AHA is a New Jersey-based private, nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation that has been providing housing and related relief to New Jersey residents for 28 years. AHA has been providing utility assistance to New Jersey residents for over eight years, administering: the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Universal Service Fund (USF) program for Monmouth County; New Jersey Natural Gas Company’s Gift of Warmth program in Monmouth and Middlesex Counties; Atlantic City Electric Company’s Helping Hands program; and the Board of Public Utilities’ (BPU) Temporary Relief for Utility Expenses (TRUE) and Payment Assistance for Gas and Electric (PAGE) programs. AHA is also the designated disaster relief counseling agency for those still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy.