The Minister also urged anyone with any balance left on their £100 Spend Local cards to use it now.
He said: “The High Street Scheme is working well. The benefits are clearly flowing through to our retail, hospitality and services sectors. So far, we have injected £118m into our economy and the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium recently credited the scheme with helping to increase the number of shoppers in Northern Ireland to their highest point so far compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“However, as I have said all along, it is so important that every penny on every card is spent in order to maximise the impact. This is the best way to ensure we support those businesses which were impacted hardest by the pandemic.
“While the vast majority have received and used their cards, not everyone received their cards as early as we would have wished. Therefore in order to offer these applicants more time to maximise the support for our high street businesses, I am extending the deadline to use the Spend Local cards to midnight on 19 December.”
The Minister concluded: “There is now an extra five days to use Spend Local cards and I want to urge everyone to make the most of this extension. Spend it now, spend it all and spend it local.”
There were 1.4 million successful applications to the scheme. Cards have been delivered to 99% of applicants and 10,000 cards are currently out for delivery. The delay in dispatching some cards is due to a number of reasons including: applicants submitting evidence late; errors in applications; late submissions and some applications identified as duplicates before being verified.
The Department has contacted all verified applicants who should have received a card but have not activated it as yet. It is urging all applicants who have not received a card to check their email accounts today and respond before noon tomorrow.
Cardholders can check their balance, view transaction history, terms and conditions or find answers to frequently asked questions relating to the cards by visiting the DfE Spend Local page clients.prepaidfinancialservices.com/nistimulus/login.aspxWhen an applicant receives their card, they must activate it through a computer-operated phone system or text message and make the first payment using a pin, before they can start to use it for contactless payments.