Milwaukee 8-year-old feels 'safe' about COVID-19 after exchange with Biden during town hall

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- CNN's Town Hall gave people from Southeastern Wisconsin a rare chance to ask questions to the president.

President Joe Biden fielded questions about a wide range of topics, including COVID-19 vaccines, racial justice and student loan debt.

A memorable moment from the town hall came when the president comforted Layla Salas, an 8-year-old girl from Milwaukee.

"Don't be scared, honey. Don't be scared. You're going to be fine. And we're going to make sure mommy is fine, too," Biden told Layla.

The exchange came after her mom, Jessica Salas, asked the president when vaccines would be available for children.

"I was kind of hoping that he would say, 'Oh, you know, we're hoping to get these out to kids by this date, by October or November,' whatever it would may be, and he didn't have that information. But the fact that he could comfort my child was huge," Jessica Salas said.

Layla told CBS 58 she wants to become a scientist or president when she grows up. She calls Dr. Anthony Fauci her hero.

She said she brought a notebook to the town hall to write down everything the president said.

"When Joe Biden spoke to me, I felt more safe. Because he said that most kids don't catch (COVID). It's a very rare for kids from what we've seen to catch it and die," Layla Salas said. "It felt very comforting for me."

The president provided more direct answers to some other questions asked during the town hall. Biden said he opposes defunding the police. He vowed to have vaccines available for every American by the end of July. When asked when life will get back to normal, the president said he believes life will be closer to normal by Christmas.

He also gave a direct answer to the question asked by Joycelyn Fish, a marketing director for a community theater in Racine.

"We need student loan forgiveness beyond the potential $10,000 your administration has proposed. We need at least a $50,000 minimum. What will you do to make that happen?" Fish asked Biden.

"I will not make that happen," Biden responded. "It depends on whether or not you go to a private university or a public university. It depends on the idea that I say to a community, I'm going to forgive the debt, the billions of dollars of debt for people who have gone to Harvard and Yale and Penn and schools my children -- I went to a great school. I went to a state school."

Fish said she was surprised the president gave her such a direct answer.

"I really just hope he can have open discussions about what the possibility of of canceling student debt like that would be," Fish told CBS 58.

During the town hall, Biden said he believes everyone should be able to go to community college for free. He said he was comfortable forgiving $10,000 in student loan debt but not $50,000 as some top Democrats have proposed.

"There's a lot that goes into student debt," Fish told CBS 58. "Yes, we did sign a contract at 17 or 18 years old, a lot of the times saying, 'Oh yeah, this is what we need to get through college.' It unfortunately perpetuates a cycle of poverty."

Black Husky Brewery owner Tim Eichinger asked the president when more small business aid will come.


"What will you do so that small mom and pop businesses like ours will survive over large corporate entities?" asked Eichinger.

"(We will) let you know how that 60 billion part of the package will go to small businesses," said Biden.

Eichinger said he was okay with the answer, although he wanted the president to show more urgency about getting aid out to businesses in need.

"This isn't something we can't fool around with for weeks or even days," said Eichinger.

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