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NI High Street Voucher Scheme: Another £21m set aside to cover cost of excess applications

How To Apply For The Northern Ireland High Street Voucher Scheme

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The Department for the Economy is set to add another £21m into its High Street Voucher scheme to cover t…

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The Department for the Economy is set to add another GBP21m into its High Street Voucher scheme to cover the risk of receiving more applications than initially expected. The GBP145m initiative is a key part of Economy Minister Gordon Lyon's economic recovery action plan, worth GBP275m in total. The Spend Local scheme was been designed to help those businesses who suffered the most due to coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Lyons told his department's scrutiny committee that a further GBP21m had been set aside to cover the possibility of an excess number of applications. Of this GBP21m, GBP10m will cover the GBP100 pre-loaded onto each card for spending in bricks and mortar shops around Northern Ireland, while the remaining GBP11m is set to cover the additional costs of procuring and distributing new cards. It had been estimated that the population of those aged 18 and over eligible to receive the card is 1.4 million, but it's believed another 100,000 people could be eligible to apply for the scheme.

In explaining these additional funds, the Economy Minister said: "We set aside GBP145m for the scheme, but we obviously wanted to make sure that there was a contingency in place." Mr Lyons also stressed that if there were fewer applications than expected, the additional funds would be redirected towards other programmes helping the economy recover. UUP MLA, Mike Nesbitt, pointed out that the cards could be used to buy online vouchers from supermarkets, thereby bypassing the scheme's requirement for supporting independent retailers.

In response to this, Mr Lyons acknowledged the point but said he believed the public would act in the intended spirit of the scheme and support local shops.

Since the application portal for the scheme opened on Monday, more than 560,000 applications for the cards have been completed, with 300,000 verified using the Electoral Office database.

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