Thu Oct 29 2020 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

JCPL Postponed Rate Hike is not enough

A DECISION by JCP&L to postpone a rate hike until 2021 is commendable, but doesn't go far enough, Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari said.

"The utility needs to eliminate the rate increase altogether," Vicari said. "I've said it time and time again, our seniors cannot afford this higher bill."

Vicari has rallied against the proposed rate hike since it was first announced last spring.

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic created a financial hardship for many senior citizens and younger families, making the increase an even greater burden, he said.

Vicari spoke against the higher rates during a public hearing before the state Board of Public Utilities on September 10.

"The increase may seem small, but many of our seniors are living on less than $1,400 a month," Vicari said during the public hearing. "Additionally, they are facing higher food bills because of the pandemic."

Vicari was also critical of the utility for asking for more money while at the same time refusing to reimburse residents who lost valuable food and prescription medicine during lengthy storm-related power outages last August.

"Other utility companies, including Atlantic City Electric, PSEG and Con Ed offered reimbursements, but JCP&L did not," Vicari said. "That's another reason why this rate increase should be permanently abolished."

Vicari also thanked the BPU for cutting the requested increase in half.

The BPU on Wednesday granted JCP&L a 4 percent increase in its rates, which is less than half of what the utility originally requested.

The decision also requires the utility to undergo an operational audit.

Utility officials said the increase, which would hike average bills by about $4 per month, won't show up in customer's bills until November 2021.