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NJ'S Top Energy Firms, Non-Profits Launch Fuel Fund For Needy

Trenton, NJ — March 5, 1998 — A coalition of New Jersey's top energy companies and non-profit agencies today announced the creation of a new, statewide fuel assistance fund designed to offer financial help to individuals and families living in the state who are in need of temporary aid in paying their energy bills.

New Jersey SHARES (Statewide Heating Assistance and Referral for Energy Services) is a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation modeled in large part on the successful private electric company fuel assistance funds now maintained by GPU Energy, Atlantic Electric and Rockland Electric Company for their customers in need.

New Jersey SHARES grants will be targeted to non-welfare residential energy customers who have short-term financial difficulties, have exhausted all other available resources and cannot pay their energy bills. Recipients will be certified for eligibility by human service agencies.

New Jersey SHARES is run by a Board of Directors composed of representatives of the state's major energy providers and non-profit organizations. The energy provider members are: Atlantic Electric, Elizabethtown Gas Company, GPU Energy, Public Service Gas & Electric Company, Rockland Electric Company and South Jersey Gas Company. The non-profit agencies are: American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Community Health Law Project, New Jersey Low Income Energy Network, Association for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), Community Action Program Executive Directors Association (CAPEDA) and The Salvation Army.

New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Herbert Tate said, "We hope this will be the beginning of other enterprising and positive ways of serving New Jersey's residential utility customers. This fuel fund grew out of an unusual partnership. This program recognizes that sometimes, through no fault of their own, some of our people need a hand up to get back on their feet after a financial reversal, medical crisis or family problem. New Jersey SHARES offers that hand to them."

Data from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities on residential non-payment service shutoffs shows that approximately 146,000 N.J. households in 1997 lost their energy service because of past-due bills.

New Jersey SHARES is funded principally by a $1 million start-up grant made possible by PSE&G. Additional funding for the program comes from the coalition's other energy provider members' contributing a flat rate percentage of first-year administration costs, and a pro-rated contribution based on the number of residential electric and gas customers they have in New Jersey.

PSE&G Chairman and Chief Executive Officer E. James Ferland said, "PSE&G participation in New Jersey SHARES is aimed at helping provide real solutions to very real problems in our state. The fuel fund assistance that this program provides will serve as a helping hand to our neighbors who have, for whatever reasons, temporarily fallen on hard times."

More funding is expected from New Jersey SHARES solicitations of the state's businesses and the general public. All contributions are tax deductible.

New Jersey SHARES President Judith L. Lankau, Director of Quality Development and Market Research for Rockland Electric Company, said, "The needy are always among us, but those who, through no fault of their own, become temporarily needy present us with a particularly difficult set of problems. New Jersey SHARES serves the public interest in the purest way possible by addressing at least one of that set of problems by helping to keep the lights on."

The new program is the outgrowth of a two-year collaborative effort by energy companies and non-profit agencies. No statewide fuel assistance fund now exists in New Jersey. GPU, Atlantic Electric and Rockland Electric, which currently maintain funds, will fold them into New Jersey SHARES.

Michael Swayze, the chairman of the New Jersey Low Income Energy Network (LIEN) who spearheaded the effort to create New Jersey SHARES, said, "New Jersey LIEN had a vision several years ago to create a statewide energy assistance program, and today, through a lot of hard work, that vision has become a reality. It's a dream come true."

New Jersey SHARES expects to be operational in early autumn in time for the 1998 fall heating season. The search is now being conducted for an executive director.

If you wish to make a contribution to New Jersey SHARES, the first statewide fuel assistance fund, please send your tax deductible check to New Jersey SHARES, C/O Summit Bank, 46 Parsonage Road, Edison, N.J. 08818.


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