Northern Ireland's retail, hospitality and service sectors need your support to help them bounce back from the impact of the pandemic. That is why anyone who hasn't applied for their Spend Local card should do so now.
This was the key message from Economy Minister Gordon Lyons when he visited a number of businesses in Armagh to hear how the High Street Scheme is benefitting them.
The Minister said:
"There are just days left until the applications portal closes at midnight on the 25th of October. I urge anyone who is eligible but has yet to apply for their Spend Local card to do so today. We are still at the early stages of this scheme but, to date, over 5.6million has been injected into our economy and the economic benefits are starting to be felt.
"It was good to come to Armagh to meet retailers and restaurant owners today and it was reassuring to hear that they are starting see how the High Street Scheme will help them. If you haven't applied for your card, do so today. If you have received your card, then Spend Local. You will be helping thousands of businesses across Northern Ireland just like the ones here in Armagh."
The Minister met with John Murray, the owner of local restaurant Embers, who said:
"We are seeing more people coming into the restaurant with their Spend Local cards. There is a lot of enthusiasm about the cards. They have been a topic of conversation among diners for a number of weeks now and I think people are genuinely excited to get out there and use them.
"It has been a very challenging period for the hospitality sector, and anything designed to drive more people into our town centres is something to be welcomed."
Alistair Robinson, owner of bicycle shop Cycleology, said:
"We have already had quite a few people coming in to use their cards. They are either using the card to upgrade to a bike they have had their eye on or putting the 100 towards treating their children.
"The scheme is certainly welcome, and I hope it contributes to bringing more people, giving local business a boost. It is an added bonus that the scheme is enabling more people to get a bike and the health benefits regular cycling brings."
Restaurateur Gavin Emerson of Uluru Bar and Grill said:
"You can see as more people receive the card, more are being used in the restaurant. We have been working hard to develop additional incentives for people to use the card with us as it is important to everyone at Uluru that we can give our customers a little extra.
"It has been a tough period for a lot of people, and I hope the cards can encourage more people back into the city centre so they can enjoy the wonderful hospitality we have here in Armagh."
The Minister also met Jim Clarke, owner of Clarke Decorate. He said:
"After the first lockdown, a lot of people moved online for their shopping so any scheme that helps rejuvenate and drive people back to our high streets is to be welcomed.
"We have had a number of people using their Spend Local cards with us. If someone is decorating a couple of rooms at home, then 100 is a nice sweetener when it comes to the bill."
Notes to editors:
1. The online portal will close at midnight on October 25th. The telephony service will close at 6pm the same day.
2. Applicants can register for the Spend Local card on nidirect.
3. Key dates in the roll-out of the High Street Scheme:
- 27September to 25October - Applications portal open.
- Week commencing 4October First tranche of cards issued to those who have successfully applied for the Spend Local pre-paid card.
- 11October Telephone service opened to support applications from people not able to access or use the online portal.
- 25October High Street Scheme online portal and telephone services will close.
- 25October - the last qualifying date for those turning 18 to be eligible to apply for a Spend Local card.
- 30November High Street Scheme closes and the Spend Local pre-paid cards will cease to be valid.
4. For verification purposes in order to reduce the risk of fraud and error, each applicant will be asked to provide:
National Insurance number;
email address; and
5. 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.
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 verify 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 11October. The later opening of the telephone service has been implemented to encourage more people to apply online when the portal opened on 27September and avoid using the phone line leaving it available for those who do not have access to, or are not able to use, the internet.
10. The Department's Economic Recovery Action Plan is available on the DfE website.
12. Follow us on Twitter@Economy_NI
13. For media enquiries contact the Department for the EconomyPress Office firstname.lastname@example.org
14. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours servicefor media enquiries onlybetween 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
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