NJ woman on oxygen tank dies hours after PSE&G turns off lights
NEWARK — The state's largest power utility is reviewing its records after a 68-year-old woman who depended on an oxygen tank died hours after power to her home was cut off.
The family of Linda Daniels told News 12 New Jersey that the woman had been in hospice care for congestive heart failure. Her son showed a reporter a bank statement showing that he had paid hundreds of dollars just days before the power was cut on Thursday. It's not clear whether PSE&G received that payment.
State regulations prohibit utilities from cutting off services on weekends, holidays or if a medical emergency exits in the home.
A spokeswoman for the utility on Friday told New Jersey 101.5 that Daniels' account had been in arrears for months and the utility did not know that Daniels had medical issues.
"We’re saddened to hear that Ms. Daniels passed away yesterday. We extend our sincere condolences to her family," Karen A. Johnson said.
"As part of our policy, PSE&G had notified this customer numerous times that their account was in arrears and that they would be scheduled for a service termination unless the account was made current. Unfortunately, because there was no response from the customer, the customer was shut off. They had not notified us of any medical circumstances in the home," she added.
"PSE&G carefully follows state procedures for customers with special circumstances that are taken into consideration when service termination decisions are being made," Johnson said Friday. "After the disconnection occurred and we were notified that the customer had medical issues, we began the process to reconnect the service. We are reviewing our records to determine what transpired."
Customers with medical or financial issues have several options in New Jersey, according to the Board of Public Utilities.
The Payment Assistance for Gas and Electric Program, or PAGE, provides bill-paying assistance to customers experiencing a financial crisis.
The state Department of Community Affairs provides Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefits to customers needing assistance paying for heating costs and certain medically necessary cooling expenses.
The Department of Community Affairs also provides Universal Service Fund benefits for households that are below the federal poverty level.
The state Department of Human Services provides a $225 annual Lifeline energy benefit to seniors and the disabled who meet the PAAD eligibility requirements or who receive Social Security.
The nonprofit NJSHARES provides assistance to income eligible households for energy, telephone and water bills.