Every person in Northern Ireland aged 18 and over will be eligible to apply for a pre-paid card worth £100 to spend in their local high street, Economy Minister Diane Dodds announced today.
Speaking as retail outlets were among the services re-opening today under the recent Coronavirus guidelines, the Minister revealed further details on her High Street Stimulus (HSS) and Holiday at Home Voucher schemes.
She said the HSS scheme – which is a vital part of the Economic Recovery Action Plan – is designed to stimulate local businesses, including retail and hospitality sector outlets, following the pandemic. The Minister revealed that eligible individuals aged 18 and over will be asked to apply for the pre-paid card through a dedicated online portal. The card must be used in ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses within Northern Ireland and cannot be used online. The Minister also revealed that, if conditions are right, the HSS scheme will open at the end of the summer.
The Minister said: “Today is a day for looking forward. The re-opening of retail outlets alongside outdoor hospitality, self-contained tourism accommodation, swimming pools and gyms under the latest Coronavirus guidelines is another significant milestone as we move out of lockdown.
“I am excited to see shoppers back in our high streets, customers once again enjoying outdoor hospitality and the return of holidaymakers to self-contained accommodation. I am optimistic because reopening of our economy is the most important first step towards economic recovery.
“However, our High Street Stimulus scheme will provide a timely boost to this recovery. It will provide eligible applicants with a pre-paid card worth £100. This means up to 1.4 million people will spend an extra £140m on our high streets rather than online. This has a multiplier effect which will help bring many more customers back through the doors of local retail, hospitality and other sectors.
“We have commissioned research into when the HSS would be most beneficial to our economic recovery. We expect there will be pent up demand following the easing of restrictions. Therefore we believe that the end of the summer is the appropriate time to deliver this spending boost.”
The Minister also revealed details of the Holiday at Home Voucher Scheme which will allow Northern Ireland households to claim back 50% off a stay of two nights or more in certified accommodation, up to the value of £100. Vouchers will also be issued, offering 50% off visits to attractions or tourism experience providers, up to the value of £20. Vouchers will be allocated on a first come first served basis and each household can apply for one of each type of voucher. Households can then claim their voucher money back by uploading their receipt and voucher details online. The scheme will be launched in the autumn to drive demand after the summer season.
The Minister went on to say: “My Economic Recovery Action Plan (ERAP) sets out the actions that will enable us to build a more competitive and inclusive economy as we move forward from today. The High Street Stimulus Scheme and the Holiday at Home Schemes are cornerstones of this plan.
“Today is a bright day as Northern Ireland takes another step towards normality, and it is vital that this momentum is maintained. Of course, every one of us can play our part by following the guidance to ensure a safe as well as an enjoyable experience.”
Media campaigns for both schemes will be launched to encourage members of the public to register for pre-paid cards and vouchers online. Further details will be released in due course.