Economy Minister Gordon Lyons today announced that the deadline to use the £100 pre-paid Spend Local card will be extended to December 14.
In a statement to the Assembly, the Minister said:
“To date, over 1.024 million cards have been dispatched, over 580,000 of these have been activated. Over £26.5m has now been injected into our local economy. These are quite remarkable statistics and, while it is still early days, I think it is fair to say the process of recovery on our high streets is now under way.
“By the end of this week, cards will have been dispatched to at least 95% of applicants that we have been able to match on the information held on the databases. And by the middle of next week, cards will have been dispatched to all those verified to date.
“It remains the case that most people have four weeks to spend their card, but I recognise that this will not be the case for everyone.
“Therefore in order to offer these applicants a fair timescale to use their card, I can today announce that I am extending the deadline to use the Spend Local cards by two weeks - from 30 November to 14 December. I know this is something that MLAs have requested and I am happy to agree. This will mean that the vast majority of people will have at least four weeks to use their card.”
The Minister said that in order to maximise the benefit to our local businesses including retail, hospitality and service sectors, it is vitally important that everyone spends the full £100 on their Spend Local card. He said the extra two-week period will also allow card holders who have some balance left on their card, no matter how small, to spend it in local businesses.
He went on to say:
“For anyone who has any balance left on their card, no matter how small, my message is: please go out and spend it locally. Buy a coffee, a breakfast, a newspaper or magazine, or even a small present for someone this Christmas. Maximise the Spend Local card. Every penny spent will help.
“The objective of the High Street Scheme is to stimulate recovery in our local businesses by encouraging increased spending rather than online. By extending the deadline to use the Spend Local card, we can encourage more people to purchase Christmas presents, Christmas decorations and even food for Christmas dinner in their local area rather than online.”
The Minister said he had consistently encouraged all card holders to use their Spend Local cards to support businesses in their local area that have been impacted by the pandemic.
“I have been hugely encouraged by the level of engagement not only from the public, but also from our retail, hospitality and service sectors. Many local businesses – across all parts of Northern Ireland - have further incentivised spend in their premises by offering additional savings or rewards.
“By helping themselves in this way, they are also helping their staff, their suppliers and their neighbouring businesses. Spending a little, does have a big effect.”
The Minister concluded:
“The journey to recovery for retail, hospitality and service sector has just begun and, as more and more people receive their Spend Local cards through their letterboxes daily, I would urge them to activate it as soon as they get it and then spend every single last penny on it.
“And finally, remember: please, please Spend Local.”
Notes to editors:
- The Minister's statement in full can be read on the Department's website.
- Key dates in the roll-out of the High Street Scheme:
- 27 September to 25 October - Applications portal open.
- Week commencing 4 October – First tranche of cards issued to those who successfully applied for the Spend Local pre-paid card.
- 11 October – Telephone service opened to support applications from people not able to access or use the online portal.
- 25 October – High Street Scheme online portal and telephone services closed.
- 25 October - the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for a Spend Local card.
- 14 December – High Street Scheme closes and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.
- For verification purposes in order to reduce the risk of fraud and error, each applicant was asked to provide:
- disability status;
- National Insurance number;
- email address; and
- telephone number.
4. Applicants also had the option of including a driving licence number to enable verification. Once the applicant completed the registration process their information was checked against a number of government databases to verify their identity.
5. The Department has issued emails to applicants whose details could not be automatically verified. The email from firstname.lastname@example.org is legitimate and not a scam. The email asked recipients to upload further information to verify their identity. Everyone who received this email should have uploaded their verification details by now. The Department is currently processing this data.
6. The Department is required under Section 75 to monitor the implementation of its policies which includes collecting data on age, sex and disability.
7. When an applicant receives their card, they will need to activate the card 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.
8. The cards can be used in all participating businesses in Northern Ireland. They cannot be used online or for gambling or some financial and legal services.
9. The telephone support service opened on 11 October. The later opening of the telephone service was implemented to encourage more people to apply online when the portal opened on 27 September and avoid using the phone line leaving it available for those who did not have access to, or were not able to use, the internet. It closed at 6pm on October 25.
10. The Department’s Economic Recovery Action Plan is available on the Department's website - ERAP.
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