Business groups have given a mixed reaction to measures announced in the budget today.

Most have welcomed the extension of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) until April at a cost of €1.4bn.

But strong criticism has emerged over the failure to further extend the 9% VAT rate for tourism and hospitality beyond the end of August next year.

The Minister for Finance said the EWSS would cease at the end of April and would be gradually reduced from December on in order to avoid a cliff-edge for recipients.

In December, January and February, a two-rate structure of €151.50 and €203 will apply, to the payments, while in March and April a flat rate subsidy of €100 will be put in place.

The scheme will close to new employers from 1 January.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise said the move was happening at a time when many governments are closing down similar schemes.

"We are doing this because we want to give every business a fighting chance to survive the pandemic and hold on to as many of their staff as they can," Leo Varadkar said.

"It's about protecting jobs and businesses."

The clarity and certainty was welcomed by the employers' group Ibec.

"For those sectors worst hit by Covid in the Experience Economy the extension of the EWSS and commercial rates waiver are welcome," said Danny McCoy, Ibec's CEO.

"The additional €100 million in funding for the sector to encourage a sustainable recovery will also help to reopen parts of the Experience Economy which are still struggling."

However, tourism and hospitality groups have voiced disappointment and dismay that the 9% VAT rate has not been extended beyond its planned end of 31 August next year.

They had lobbied for an extension for several more years to give the sectors a chance to recover faster and to provide certainty to customers.

The Restaurants' Association of Ireland described the move as disastrous and said it showed no ambition, while the Irish Hotels' Federation has called on the Government to reconsider its position on the matter.

"Failure to commit to an extension of the 9% VAT in this Budget is deeply regrettable and does not take account of the scale of decimation experienced by our industry," said Tim Fenn, CEO of the IHF.

"The Government is failing to recognise the importance of this measure as a contributor to international competitiveness and to the Irish tourism business model."

"In the aftermath of the last recession, the 9% VAT rate was an important enabler in job growth and created 90,000 tourism jobs - one of the most successful job support measures introduced in the history of the State."

The remote working relief announced in today's budget has, however, received a warmer welcome.

It will bring in an income tax deduction amounting to 30% of the cost of vouched expenses for heat, electricity and broadband used while working from home.

Trade union Fórsa welcomed the development, but said meeting the additional costs associated with remote working remained under discussion in talks on a long-term framework for 'blended working' in the public service.

General secretary Kevin Callinan said a successful outcome to these negotiations would be far more significant than the budget measures in terms of realising the Government's January 2021 Remote Working Strategy.

Changes to the standard rate income tax band and personal tax credit, and the increase of the ceiling for the second band of USC, were welcomed by the American Chamber of Commerce, but it also called for more clarity.

"While we welcome the direction of travel by the Government in relation to personal taxation, AmCham believes commitments are needed to not increase personal taxation in order to further enhance our competitiveness offering," said Director of Public Affairs & Advocacy, Regina O'Connor.

The package of measures aimed at helping the tourism and hospitality sectors and the aviation sectors to recover were also well received.

€50m is to be spent on further Business Continuity Supports for the tourism industry, with an additional €39m to be spend on enhancing marketing and product development in the sector.

The commercial rates waiver is to be extended for the fourth quarter of the year for hospitality, arts, and certain tourism sectors, at a cost of €60m.

The main airports are to share €90m to help them restore connectivity and routes lost during the pandemic.

"Our business at Dublin and Cork Airports has been significantly hit by the fall in the passenger numbers over the past two years, as has the entire aviation ecosystem including our airline partners," said DAA chief executive, Dalton Philips.

"Together we have a long journey to travel as we seek to reconnect Ireland to the rest of the world and fulfil our role as an economic enabler for the Irish economy in terms of trade, tourism and social connectivity."

There will also be an expansion of the Employment and Investment Incentive Scheme (EIIS) to attract early-stage funding into new and innovative businesses as well as a new €90 million Innovation Equity Fund, which will invest in early-stage companies with potential to grow and scale up.

The Minister for Finance also announced further details of the new tax credit for the digital gaming industry.

The Government also said that Microbreweries Relief will be extended in next year's Finance Bill to producers of fermented beverages such as apple ciders and berries, helping brewers across the country.

Retail Excellence said it was not a budget for business, given that retailers have significant legacy debt along with rising energy costs which were not been fully addressed by the Minister for Finance nor the Minister for Public Expenditure.

Sven Spollen Behrens, Director of the SFA, said the budget will not do much to reduce the cost of doing business for the small business sector. "Policy announcements such as the right to request remote work, pension auto enrollment and statutory sick pay are cases in point of this," he said.

Mr Spollen Behrens said there were "some chinks of light" in the budget. He welcomed the extension of the commercial rates waiver for the Experience Economy, the expansion of the EIIS to attract investment and extending the EWSS into 2022. "These measures particularly committing to EWSS will help small businesses get back on their feet."

Duncan Graham, Managing Director of Retail Excellence, said retailers are disappointed not to see additional supports such as online grants for businesses, particularly those with fewer than ten employees who are in greatest need of assistance.

Mr Graham, however, said some retail workers are still availing of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. "We still have approximately 15,500 retail workers on the PUP, and we need to see a robust plan to get these people back to work to address staff shortages."

Chambers Ireland, the voice of business throughout Ireland, welcomed the Government's focus on capital investment, childcare, and remote working in Budget 2022.

CEO Ian Talbot said further development and implementation of the Remote Work Strategy will help the Government deliver for Ireland's workers, businesses and communities.

"We believe that remote work has an important role to play in creating more sustainable towns and cities by not limiting work to geography. A national flexible working policy would strengthen this. It would also help to address skills shortages by providing a wider talent pool for employers," Mr Talbot said.