The Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has announced that the opening dates for the highly anticipated £140million NI high street voucher scheme will be revealed tomorrow.
Taking to Twitter, Mr Lyons confirmed that the wait will soon be over and that information on the application's opening and closing dates will soon be made available to the public.
Speaking to the media earlier today, Mr Lyons said, "I know there's a lot of excitement out there, people are looking forward to spending their cards."
"I'm looking forward to them getting out there as well so we can give that real boost to our economy in the short term and also, hopefully, change behaviours and bring people back into the high street in the long term as well."
He went on to encourage people to consider spending their voucher in local businesses, stating, "In the meantime, I would encourage people to think about how they can spend their prepaid cards in order to help boost the local economy and help those businesses that have struggled for so long."
The announcement will provide relief to many, as confusion around the application open date had led to East Belfast Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen MBE asking for clarity.
In a statement on Friday, September 10th, 2021, he said “The High Street Voucher (stimulus) scheme was first announced back in November 2020. In the 10 months that have passed since then, the Department for the Economy has had sufficient time to formulate and commence the rollout of the scheme."
"I would, therefore, urgently call on the Department for the Economy to clearly set out timelines and indicate what preparations have been made in the unacceptable event of the scheme being further delayed.”
Earlier on Monday, September 13, 2021,when speaking to BBC NI, SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan expressed concern that elderly people who could not use computers, "could end up missing out".
The Department of Economy have confirmed that applications can be made over the phone for those who do not have a computer or internet access and that people will be able to register to complete an application on behalf of someone, however, they must have their permission and their personal details.
How can I apply for the High Street Voucher Scheme?
The Department of Economy will announce the portal opening and closing dates on Tuesday, September 14, 2021.
You can access the portal through NI Direct, to apply applications must include the following information:
Register online on NI Direct. You will be presented with an information page on the High Street Scheme and a button to launch the registration process.
8 pieces of information will be requested during the registration process; Name, Address, DOB, Gender, Disability, NI Number, Driving Licence number (optional) and mobile phone number and email address.
You can register to complete an application on behalf of a limited number of other people, however, you must have their permission and their personal details.
Following completion of the online registration process, you will receive an email confirming the receipt of the application. The information provided will first be checked against the electoral register database followed by the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency. This is an automated process with no access to your personal information.
Once your identity has been confirmed the details required to complete the process will be sent to the pre-paid card provider and you will receive an email to inform you that the registration process is now complete and when you should expect to receive your card.
If you are unsuccessful in the first phase of checks then your identity will be checked against a further suite of government databases. If your identity is confirmed then your details will be forwarded to the pre-paid card provider and you will receive a confirmation email. If your application is unsuccessful, you will be informed and directed to the appeals process.
Who is eligible?
All adults in Northern Ireland over the age of 18 will be eligible to receive a £100 voucher, with the electoral register and other government databases such as DVLA and DfC being used to verify people's details.
There will also be a phone application process for those who don't have access to do an online application.
Work is being carried out to ensure groups who may not be on the electoral register, or have a permanent address, are able to apply.
When can I use my voucher?
A pre-paid card with £100 can be used at any retail business including shops and services such as hairdressers, restaurants and even for home heating oil, you can also use the card to order and pay over the phone to buy from local businesses.
Additionally you will be able to use it alongside other forms of payment subject to the retailer.
Are there any limitations?
Yes. There will be some restrictions and the voucher cannot be used online, donated to charity, to pay for financial or legal services or gambling.