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    After helping low-income families pay their medical bills for several years, the state of New Jersey will lower the amount of funds allocated for such expenditures, the East Windsor Patch reports.

    According to the media outlet, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities announced on Thursday, September 13, that it had approved a new budget plan that included lower spending through the Universal Service Fund (USF).

    The USF mandates that low-income households do not pay more than 6 percent of their income on utility bills, but recently dropped to $230 million, compared with $242.4 million last year, said Kristi Izzo, secretary of the New Jersey BPU. Officials stated the lower funds are due to the state's unseasonably warm weather and a major decline in natural gas prices, which has resulted in lower electricity bills. Despite the reasons, the decline came as a shock to many, considering New Jersey's electricity rates usually rank among the best in the country.

    The state has boasted such low rates thanks to its competitive market, which has flourished since implementing energy deregulation laws. Now, state residents have the opportunity to shop around for energy suppliers, and choose the provider that best fits their needs.