SDLP Economy Spokesperson Sinéad McLaughlin has expressed her concern at the way the high street voucher scheme has been rolled out.
It was announced on Tuesday that the scheme would open for registrations on September 27 with the first cards being issued from October 4.
The pre-paid cards with a value of £100 must be used by November 30.
Said the Foyle MLA: “While it’s welcome that a date has finally been set for the rollout of this long-promised scheme, I am disappointed at how long it has taken us to get to this stage.
“The Department for the Economy has encountered numerous issues just getting this far and it does not fill me with confidence for the administration of the scheme.
“Our young people have once again been let down by the department and DUP Economy Minister Gordon Lyons after they decided to exclude 16 and 17-year-olds from the scheme.
“Many of our young people have been hugely affected by the pandemic, having to put their education and social lives on hold.
“I believe any issues with young people accessing the scheme could have been overcome.
“If they are old enough to work and contribute to society then they should be eligible to benefit.
“There are also issues around how older and vulnerable people will be able to access their voucher, with the registration process being mainly online.
“While for some people this will be a much-needed boost to help them get by I would ask those who can afford it to consider spending this money in one of our local businesses who were affected so badly by the pandemic.
“We are lucky to boast a wide range of bespoke outlets in our cities, towns and villages across Northern Ireland and they need our support if they are to survive as we emerge from this pandemic.”