More than a million apply for North’s £100 voucher scheme

ireland
More Than A Million Apply For North’s £100 Voucher Scheme More Than A Million Apply For North’s £100 Voucher Scheme
The High Street Stimulus Scheme will see all those aged over 18 eligible for a £100 pre-paid card. Photo: PA
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By David Young, PA

More than one million individual requests to apply to the North’s high street voucher scheme were received in the first 48 hours of it opening, MLAs have heard.

Stormont’s Economy Committee was also told that the Department of the Economy is to request an additional £21 million (€24 million) in case there is an overspend of the £145 million budget allocated to the stimulus initiative.

High Street Stimulus Scheme will see all those aged over 18 eligible for a £100 pre-paid card to spend, aimed at supporting local businesses which have been devastated by Covid.

The one million requests figure represents the number of people who have logged onto the NI Direct website to start the voucher application process.

People who click to apply are then sent a link by email to enable them to fill in their personal details and complete the application.

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Economy minister Gordon Lyons told his committee that 560,000 completed applications were received by the department in the first two days of the scheme.

The minister said 300,000 of those had already been verified using the Electoral Office database.

Duplicate applications

The committee heard that 1.5 million requests to apply were received in the first 48 hours but many of those were people clicking multiple times as they did not realise it could take a number of hours for the email link to be sent to them.

When duplicates were eliminated, the number of individuals applying in the first two days was around one million.

“I think by anybody’s measurement or standard I think that is an incredible achievement within 48 hours to have had that many people sign up to a government scheme and to have been able to have delivered that in terms of links being sent out, applications sent back completed and verified as well,” Mr Lyons told the committee.

“I think it shows the popularity of the scheme and it shows I think that people want to support local businesses and all the feedback that I’ve been getting from people is that they’re looking forward not just being able to spend money for themselves, but they genuinely want to help businesses that were struggling, they want to help the economy, they want to support those who have struggled.

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Northern Ireland Economy Minister Gordon Lyons. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

“So I think that’s a good news story that we’ve been able to get so many people’s applications completed so far.”

Mr Lyons told MLAs he also expected “huge numbers” to use a telephone application service when it opens on October 11.

The minister was pressed by committee members why his department was seeking an extra £21 million from Executive coffers for a potential overspend.

Mr Lyons explained that statistical estimates of the size of the population eligible to apply for a voucher may have been too low and the department had recently received revised estimated from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

He said more applications would mean more £100 cards and also an increase in contractual charges for producing and distributing the extra cards.

The minister stressed that the extra money may not be needed, depending on how many applications are received.

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Every adult in Northern Ireland eligible for £100...
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He said if that was the case the funds would be directed to other initiatives aimed at regenerating the economy post-Covid.

The application process will remain open until October 25th, with the first cards arriving in the post on the week beginning October 4.

The cards will be valid until November 30th.

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