All adults in Northern Ireland will receive £100 to spend at local High Street shops, as part of a nationwide scheme to boost businesses that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Stormont’s Economy Minister Gordon Lyons announced the £145m scheme during a visit to Ormeau Road in Belfast on Tuesday.
He said: “The £145m High Street scheme aims to boost local businesses following a drop in footfall brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By giving everyone aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland a £100 prepaid card to spend at local High Street businesses, we will encourage many more customers through the doors of local retail, hospitality and services.”
An online application portal will open from 27th September and will be open till 25th October through NI Direct website. Applicants must provide their name, address, age, gender, disability status, national insurance number, telephone number and email address – all of which will be checked against government databases for identity verification.
A phone service will be launched on October 11 for those unable to access online services.
Applicants are expected to receive their spend local cards within 10 days, with the first voucher to be issued during the week of October 4.
Before they can be used, the cards will need to be verified via a computer-oriented phone system or text message, and the first purchase made on each card will require a PIN before it can be used for contactless payments. code will be required.
Minister Lyons encouraged all adults to apply for their cards, but also called for patience as he expected long waits on the online portal due to high demand.
“We expect the demand to be high, so please be patient if the online portal gets busy soon after opening. It’s important to remember that everyone will have at least four weeks to spend their card.
He adds: “By applying, receiving and eventually spending your card with local businesses such as stores, hospitality and other services before November 30, you will do your part to support your local businesses”.
The Belfast Chamber of Commerce welcomed the voucher scheme. The chamber’s chief executive, Simon Hamilton, said it would give a “much-needed and much-timed boost” to local businesses.
“This has been an extremely challenging period for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses and this £100 card will give locals an opportunity to actively help those businesses,” he said.
“This is a great way to support everyone who works in our local shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and other services.
“This scheme will provide a much-needed and much-timed boost to those hard-hit sectors and will bring about a massive change for businesses as we move towards recovery from the pandemic.”
The plan was also celebrated by the Ormeau Business Association. Association President Chris O’Reilly said: “Like many other local high streets in our towns and cities, Ormeau Road is home to a variety of shops, restaurants and pubs, which have felt the effects of the pandemic through a The number of customers coming through our doors has come down.
“The High Street Scheme will give us the boost we need right now. I’m sure I’m speaking for many merchants in Northern Ireland when I say we want to see customers using their local spending cards.
Prepaid cards will be accepted by any shop and business that accepts credit and debit cards for payment but will not be valid for online purchases. Similarly, the card cannot be used for gambling.
The balance on the card will be valid till November 30 when the scheme is about to expire.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /