Big NJ utilities won’t reimburse for spoiled food. But an NY utility will
New Jersey's larges power companies won't reimburse customers for spoiled food even if they lost power for days after last week's Tropical Storm Isaias. But another regional utility company is doing just that.
Some JCP&L customers were still struggling without power after last Tuesday's storm as of Monday, and may not have it back until Tuesday of this week, the company has said. A smaller sliver of PSE&G's customers still had no power Monday. In all, about 1.3 million customers of the state's various utilities lost power for at least some period.
JCP&L president Jim Fakult during a press conference on Friday in Middletown said it is not the utility's policy to reimburse customers for food loss, after Ocean County Freeholders said they plan to ask Gov. Phil Murphy to seek reimbursement from the utilities.
“Unfortunately, we do not reimburse for food lost or expenses incurred during a weather-related power outage. We suggest inquiring with your insurance company to determine if your policy covers such losses," Fakult said in a statement.
"PSE&G does not reimburse for food spoilage related to acts of nature. There are certain extenuating circumstances where a customer could make a claim," spokeswoman Lauren Ugorji told New Jersey 101.5.
Ugorji said during restoration the utility offered customers free ice, and water, to help prevent food spoilage.
Atlantic City Electric spokesman Frank Tedesco told NJ.com that it does not offer reimbursement unless it is determined that the utility could have prevented an outage. But a spokesman told New Jersey 101.5 the company still encourages customers to file claims, which will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari told New Jersey 101.5 his board will ask JCP&L and Atlantic City Electric, the two utilities that provide electric to Ocean County, to change their policies.
"These are very difficult times with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have stocked up on food because they can't leave their houses. The food prices have escalated substantially. The food they had in their freezer and their refrigerator was spoiled so they had to dispose of it," Vicari said.
He said the county has a large senior population of people who live on fixed incomes, and "hard-working people" in Ocean County that can't afford to re-stock.
"The utilities made a tremendous amount of money last year in profits," Vicari said. "What we're saying is we're not begrudging them for making a profit and taking care of their shareholders. But now it's time to say, 'You know something, we have a lot of people who cannot feed themselves. We have a lot of people with a hardship right now.' We're asking them to change their policy in this particular situation and say people come first before profits."
The freeholders will go before the rest of the board on Wednesday at their next meeting and then talk to the utility companies.
"If it doesn't work out we'll go directly to the governor and then to the Board of Public Utilities," Vicari said.
Federal officials recommend after four hours without power, throw out refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers.
As for frozen items, food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40°F or below — however, its quality may suffer.
Never taste food to determine its safety and "when in doubt, throw it out," according to USDA officials.
Con Edison, the parent company of Orange & Rockland, which serves Bergen, Passaic and Sussex counties, said it would reimburse customers for food and prescription medicine spoilage if they lost power for 48 consecutive hours or longer.
“Being without power, even during normal times, is a real hardship. It’s even more difficult now because of COVID-19," O&R Vice President Customer Service Christina Ho said in a statement.
Residential customers may receive reimbursements for up to $235 with an itemized list, or up to $540 with an itemized list and proof of loss, such as receipts or photos.
Commercial customers are eligible for up to $10,700 for losses of perishable merchandise spoiled due to lack of refrigeration.
As of 11:15 a.m. Monday, the New Jersey's largest electric utilities were reporting the following outages with just over 5,500 customers without power:
PSE&G COO Kim Hanemann said “our entire team is committed to working around the clock until every customer gets their power back” as most of remaining outages are nested outages and backyard restoration.
JCP&L in a statement said it is also working on “many localized issues” and expects power to be restored by Monday, August 10 at 11:30 p.m. in its Central Region. Its Northern Region is expected be restored by Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 11:30 p.m. The utility said it has replaced 200,000 feet of wire, repaired or replaced more than 500 poles and 2,200 crossarms, and worked through more than 700 road closures.
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