The portal for applications to the NI £100 High Street Voucher Scheme opened earlier this week.
Over 400,000 applications have already been completed, and around 840,000 links to apply for the Spend Local card have been issued.
The Minister explains, “As expected, demand for the Spend Local card is extremely high, and our response has been equal to it.
“In just two days, almost a third of the 1.4 million people eligible to apply have been able to complete their application.
“This is a formidable response and a great confidence boost for our local businesses that are at the heart of this scheme.
“We knew that demand in the first days of the scheme would be high, but our systems performed well in coping with the huge volume of traffic.
“There is still ground to cover, but the applications portal is open up to 25 October.
“There is plenty of time for all those eligible to apply, receive and use their Spend Local card.
“The objective of the High Street Scheme is to support local businesses across Northern Ireland adversely affected by the drop in footfall due to the pandemic.
“That is why I would urge everyone in receipt of a Spend Local card to think local when spending their cards and support those shops, hospitality and other services most affected by the Covid-19 restrictions,” the Minister adds.
The first Spend Local cards will issue to eligible applicants in the week commencing 4 October.
NI £100 High Street Voucher Scheme: How to apply
Applicants can register for the Shop Local card on the NI Direct website.
27 September 2021 to 25 October 2021 – Applications portal will be open.
Week commencing 4 October 2021: The first tranche of cards will issue to those who have successfully applied for the Spend Local pre-paid card.
11 October 2021: Telephone service will open to support applications from people unable to access or use the online portal.
25 October 2021: Northern Ireland High Street Scheme online portal and telephone services will close.
25 October 2021: The last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for a Spend Local card.
30 November 2021: NI High Street Scheme closes, and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.
From 27 September to 25 October 2021: Applicants can apply for the Spend Local card through the portal on NI Direct.
For verification purposes, to reduce the risk of fraud and error, each applicant will be asked to provide:
Applicants will also have the option of including a driving licence number to enable verification.
Once the applicant has completed the registration process, their information will be checked against a number of government databases to verify their identity.
The Department is required under Section 75 to monitor the implementation of its policies which includes collecting data on age, sex and disability.
When an applicant gets their card, they will need to verify the card through a computer-operated phone system or text message and make the first payment using a pin before using it for contactless payments.
The cards can be used in all participating businesses in Northern Ireland.
The High Street Scheme Spend Local pre-paid card will be accepted by shops and businesses that can accept credit and debit cards for payment.
They cannot be used online or for gambling or some financial and legal services.
The telephone support service will open on 11 October.
The later opening of the telephone service has been implemented to encourage more people to apply online when the portal opens on 27 September and avoid using the phone line, leaving it available for those who do not have access to or cannot use the internet.
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