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NJ SHARES Distributes One-Millionth Dollar

Hightstown, NJ — January 11, 2000 — NJ SHARES (Statewide Heating Assistance and Referral for Energy Services) recently distributed its one-millionth dollar to a recipient who applied for the grant at the American Red Cross in Plainfield, N.J. Established in 1998, NJ SHARES is a statewide energy fund that offers assistance to working-class households that are experiencing a financial crisis but are not receiving welfare. American Red Cross of Plainfield is one of 37 local intake agencies which distribute NJ SHARES relief funds.

According to Jake Kearney, Social Service Director at American Red Cross, the recipient of the one-millionth dollar grant is a single father of two teenage children who also supports a disabled family member. As with many other NJ SHARES grant applicants, this recipient is currently working, but was recently unemployed, causing him to fall behind on his heating and electricity bills. After receiving the grant, the agency also assisted the household in negotiating payment arrangements with their utility to pay off the remaining balance.

"Qualifying applicants who are experiencing a financial crisis can receive a NJ SHARES grant of up to $250 each for gas and electricity," said Larry Savitsky, NJ SHARES Executive Director. "The program intends to provide one-time assistance to help households get back on their feet with their utility bills."

To qualify for a NJ SHARES grant, applicants must have a history of good faith payments and not be receiving welfare. According to Kearney, the demographics of NJ SHARES applicants at American Red Cross of Plainfield range greatly, including young, elderly, single parents, couples, working-class, unemployed, and disabled. In 40% of the cases, the applicants have already been shut off from their gas or electricity. Last year, American Red Cross of Plainfield alone processed more than 100 NJ SHARES grants.

"The fact that NJ SHARES granted its millionth dollar is evidence enough to show how valuable this program is to those who are often ineligible for other types of assistance," said Kearney. "We are pleased to help those who fall into trouble, often because of causes beyond their control."

NJ SHARES was formed by six of the state's leading non-profit organizations and six New Jersey energy companies including: American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Community Health Law Project, NJ Low Income Energy Network, Association for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), New Jersey Community Action Association, Inc., The Salvation Army, Conectiv, Elizabethtown Gas Co., GPU Energy, Public Service Electric and Gas Co., Rockland Electric Co., and South Jersey Gas Co.

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