The opening and closing dates of registering for Northern Ireland's high street voucher scheme have finally been announced by the Department of Economy, providing much needed relief to households and retailers across the province.
Registration for the £140million scheme will now open on Monday, September 27, with the first cards being issued after Monday, October 4.
The deadline to apply for a voucher is Monday, October 25, 2021 and the £100 pre-paid cards must be used in full before Tuesday, November 30.
People who do not have access to a computer or the internet can register via phone from Monday, October 11. There had been concern expressed on Monday, September 13, by SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan when speaking with BBC NI, 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.
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.
How can I apply for the High Street Voucher Scheme?
The portal to register for the high street voucher will open on Monday, September 27, and the deadline to register is Monday, October 25.
You can access the portal through NI Direct, to apply 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.
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.
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.