€170m Northern Ireland voucher scheme to open in fortnight

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A high street voucher scheme, which will offer pre-paid cards worth £100 (€117) to every adult in Northern Ireland, will open for applications on September 27.

Economy Minister, Gordon Lyons said the aim of the £145m (€170m) scheme is to boost businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Lyons said an online portal that will enable everyone over 18 to apply for the card will be open from September 27 until October 25.

In the week beginning October 4, the first tranche of cards will be issued. On October 11, a phone service will open for those not able to access the online portal.

The cards can be used until November 30, when the scheme closes.

Mr Lyons said: “By giving everyone aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland a pre-paid card worth £100 to spend on local high street businesses, we will encourage many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and services.

“I would encourage everyone who is over 18 by October 25 this year to apply for their card.

“We expect demand to be high, so please be patient if the online portal is busy just after it opens. It is important to remember that everyone will have at least four weeks to spend their card.”

The minister added: “By applying, receiving and ultimately spending your card with local businesses such as shops, hospitality and other services before November 30, you will be doing your bit to support your local businesses.”

Applicants are asked to apply through the NI Direct website and will be required to provide their name, address, age, gender, disability status, National Insurance number, email address and telephone number.

Information will then be checked against a number of government databases to verify identity.

Simon Hamilton, from the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the scheme.

“It has been an immensely challenging period for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses and this £100 card will give local people the opportunity to actively help those businesses,” he said.

“It is also a great way to support everyone who works in our local shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and other services.

PA