By Julie Gordon and Kelsey Johnson
OTTAWA, July 31 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that the government will transition people from its main emergency income support program over to traditional unemployment benefits, as the government looks to wind down costly COVID-19 aid.
Trudeau told reporters that the government will create a parallel benefit for people who do not qualify for traditional employment insurance (EI), such as gig or contract workers.
"We intend to cover every Canadian who is looking for work with a better, 21st-century EI system. That is our goal," Trudeau told a news conference.
Canada rolled out the emergency aid program, which has so far cost C$62.8 billion ($46.9 billion), to help support the three million Canadians who lost their jobs amid coronavirus shutdowns. It is set to expire at the end of August.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough later said "as many Canadians as possible" will be moved over to employment insurance in September.
There will be no disruption to support, she told reporters, adding that officials have been working on the transition for months and the EI system will be ready to take 4 million applications at the start of September.
Canada also announced that an emergency commercial rent support program will be extended by one month to help eligible small businesses continue to pay rent for August.
($1 = 1.3386 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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