NI voucher scheme details - Every adult in NI could receive up to £100
The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to support the local economy through a voucher scheme that could see every adult in Northern Ireland issued with a pre-paid credit card.
News of the scheme was confirmed by Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, in the Assembly on Monday.
Minister Murphy was unable to confirm all of the details and explained the scheme would be rolled out by Minister for the Department of the Economy (DfE), Diane Dodds, MLA.
On Monday, Minister Murphy said that the scheme would see every household in Northern Ireland issued with a £200 pre-paid credit card in January 2021 but this has since changed because depending on administration costs every adult in Northern Ireland could be given a pre-paid credit card worth between £75 and £100.
The DfE has yet to finalise the details and it is expected that it will take six weeks to get the scheme up and running.
It is not yet clear how or if the DfE will make sure the money is spent in independent local businesses.
A similar scheme was rolled out on the island of Jersey earlier this year and this is how the administration there did it.
In Jersey, every man, woman and child was issued with either a pre-paid credit card or vouchers worth £100.
Any islanders in receipt of Income Support or Pension Plus received an additional £100 paid directly into their bank accounts.
Those illegible for the extra £100 were notified by letter.
The scheme was named ‘The Spend Local Initiative’ and was one example of the island stimulated local businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Islanders were encouraged to use the payment in a local restaurant, cafe or shop; or use it for services including hair and beauty salons, or home and garden maintenance.
The voucher scheme cost the Jersey government £11m - it is estimated a similar scheme in Northern Ireland will cost in the region of £95m.
The scheme was not designed to be perceived as a handout to people earning very little but rather an initiative that would support the local economy - especially businesses in nonessential retail and the hospitality sector.
Neither the vouchers or the pre-paid credit card could be used to make purchases online, put into savings or to gamble with.
The scheme was geographically restricted to the island to Jersey which meant the money supported local businesses and the Jersey economy as a whole.