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Shopping vouchers to be given to households in Northern Ireland

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The Finance Minister for Northern Ireland has announced a high street voucher scheme giving every household £200 to spend to boost the economy.

Minister of Finance, Conor Murphy, announced a £95m high street voucher scheme, giving people a pre-paid card to help boost the retail sector which has been devastated by Covid.

The Department for the Economy (DfE) is finalising the details of the scheme but it is expected that households will be given around £200 – irrespective of income – from January 2021.

Murphy told the Northern Ireland Assembly: “It’s not meant to support households; it’s meant to stimulate growth on the high street.”

A spokesperson for the Department for the Economy said: “The delivery of a NI-wide High Street Stimulus Scheme will inject £95m into our local economy. The multiplier effect of this innovative scheme – from people spending more than the value of the card and the ripple effects from purchases – will deliver even greater economic benefits and make a significant step to kick-starting our recovery.

“The scheme will provide individuals in Northern Ireland with a prepaid card to be spent at ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses including retail, restaurants and hotels before the end of March. It will not be available for online sales.

“The Department for the Economy has been provided with a financial allocation and has a clear policy objective for this funding. It is now assessing how this funding can best deliver the policy intent, including the card value and how it will be delivered.

“It is anticipated that the scheme will to ‘go live’ in early 2021 and will be subject to public health guidance.”

In Scotland, retailers have called for a similar scheme, while in England, back in July, think tank Resolution Foundation urged the government to give households a £500 high street voucher as part of a £30bn package to kick-start the economy.

But in August, the government launched the Eat Out to Help Out scheme giving diners 50% off their meals (maximum £10) between Monday and Wednesday.

Chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, will be announcing his mini-Budget tomorrow, with a pay freeze for millions of public sector workers on the cards.

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