The deadline to use your Spend Local card has been extended again. Economy Minister Gordon Lyons told Good Morning Ulster on Thursday morning that the deadline to spend your High Street Voucher is now midnight on Sunday, December 19. He explained a "very, very low number overall" are still waiting for their cards - around 10,000 people.
Minister Lyons told GMU: "That is just giving folks a few more days so that they can get out and get their card spent. It's in our interest, it's in their interest and the interests of businesses to make sure that these cards are spent, and that we get that money back into the local economy again." Applications for the pre-paid GBP100 cards opened on September 27, with the initial deadline for spending them set for the end of November, which was originally extended to December 14 before Thursday's announcement.
Speaking to the BBC, the Minister added: "It has been a very, very successful scheme that has been brought in to help those businesses that were struggling so much during the pandemic and I'm absolutely delighted that 1.4 million applications were made. "We now have, those cards have been dispatched to those people, in fact delivered to 99% of applicants at this stage. Now, there has been a delay in dispatching some of those cards, that's for a number of reasons.
"Some applications submitted evidence later, there were some errors in applications, and there were some duplicates made as well, and those had to be verified before they were sent out. I'm assured that the vast majority of people have received them. "Indeed, we have GBP118M worth of spend as well already injected into our local economy, that will go up in the coming days and I'm convinced that we will get those extra cards out to people in the coming days."
Minister Lyons added that "it's nonsense to suggest that this scheme hasn't worked" as it runs into the Christmas period. He said: "It's done absolutely what we had intended it to do. "I have been listening to local retailers, and they have been telling me that this couldn't have come at a better time because not only does it pull people in to the high streets and pull people off online shopping during what was a low time for them in November time, but the fact it has actually been extended to as far as it has [been has] helped, because it has brought those [in] that might otherwise not have spent money on the high street.
"This scheme has worked, in fact it has fulfilled it's policy intent. "Importantly, I think that if there has been spend during the Christmas period, we have actually ensured that it has been spent on the high street rather than online - which again was one of the fundamental policy objectives." The Economy Minister is urging people to check their junk email folders for any correspondence from the Department.
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 the balance of their voucher here, view transaction history, terms and conditions or find answers to frequently asked questions relating to the cards by visiting the DfE Spend Local page.
When 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. If you have any further queries about the scheme, email [email protected] or phone 08000 468 333. The phone line is available 24 hours a day.
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