The highly anticipated high street voucher scheme launch date has been announced, with people being able to register for a voucher from Monday, September 27.
The scheme, which will see eligible people over the age of 18 in Northern Ireland offered a free £100 pre-paid voucher, has been designed to inject much needed revenue into local businesses impacted by the pandemic.
With much discussion out there, here is what we know so far about the high street voucher scheme.
When do applications open?
The Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has confirmed that registering for the scheme will open on Monday, September 27, and close on Monday, October 25.
Speaking to the media on Monday, 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."
Who is eligible for the voucher scheme?
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.
In late August some politicians argued for the scheme to be extended to be offered to older teenagers, MLA Claire Sugden said: “16 and 17-year-olds can work, they have a National Insurance number, they can spend. I would be fully supportive of extending it to 16 and 17-year-olds.' However, the Department for Economy has confirmed that they will not be extending the age limit of the scheme.
How to apply for the High Street Voucher Scheme
When applications open on Monday, September 27, to apply for the voucher you must:
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.
There will be a phone application process for those who don't have access to complete an online application, which opens on Monday, October 11.
Work is also being carried out to ensure groups who may not be on the electoral register, or have a permanent address, are able to apply.
How do I activate my voucher?
Following a successful application to the scheme, you will receive a £100 pre-paid card which can be used in any local business that accepts debit/credit cards.
Once you receive your card you will need to verify it by SMS, phone or online before you are able to use it.
Where can I use my £100 Pre-Paid Card?
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.
There will be some restrictions and the voucher cannot be used online, donated to charity, to pay for financial or legal services or gambling.
When is the deadline for spending?
Your voucher must be spent in full by Tuesday, November 30.