As part of the stimulus package, everyone over the age of 18 in Northern Ireland is entitled to a £ 100 prepaid card to spend in support of local businesses, which have been devastated by the Covid pandemic -19.
The card was originally planned to be valid until November 30.
But announcing the extension, Mr Lyons told the Assembly: “Still, most people have four weeks to spend their card, but I recognize that not everyone will.
“Therefore, in order to provide these applicants with a fair amount of time to use their cards, I can announce today that I am extending the time limit for using Spend Local cards by two weeks – from November 30 to December 14.”
Mr Lyons told MPs that there were 160,000 people who had requested the program whose personal details could not be verified by the databases.
He said: ‘None of these candidates were rejected and each of them had the opportunity to present proof that they live in Northern Ireland and are over 18 years old.
“The Assembly can be assured that we apply maximum flexibility on the information that can be provided to confirm that they are eligible for a Spend Local card.”
He said it appeared that around 98% of people whose details could not be verified would get their application approved.
He also dismissed accusations that there was gender discrimination under the program against women whose maiden name on their birth certificate was different from their marriage name.
He said: “I have taken swift and decisive action to resolve this issue and can now assure members that candidates will not be faced with this issue.”
The Minister added: “To date, over 1.024 million cards have been shipped, of which over 580,000 have been activated.
“Over £ 26.5million has now been pumped into our local economy.
“These are pretty remarkable statistics and, while it’s still in its early stages, I think it’s fair to say that the process of getting back to our main streets is now underway.
“By the end of this week, cards will have been sent to at least 95% of the candidates that we were able to match on the information in the databases.
“And by the middle of next week, the cards will have been mailed to everyone verified to date.”
The minister said in order to maximize the benefits for local businesses, including the retail, hospitality and service sectors, everyone should spend the full £ 100 on their card.
He said: “For anyone who has a remaining balance on their card, no matter how small, my message is, go out and spend it locally. Buy a coffee, breakfast, newspaper or magazine, or even a small gift for someone this Christmas.
“The aim of the high street program is to stimulate the recovery of our local businesses by encouraging increased spending (locally) rather than online.
“By extending the expiration date of the Spend Local Card, we can encourage more people to buy Christmas presents, Christmas decorations and even Christmas dinner food in their area rather than online. . “