SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Since war broke out in Ukraine more than 100 days ago, the United Nations estimates at least 6 million Ukrainians have fled the country. Now, many are looking for new homes away from war but the difficulty they are having is finding a sponsor to host them, at least in the United States.
After seeing reports daily from Ukraine, local photographer Jenn Moak decided she wanted to step up to the plate and become a sponsor, “because you are sitting in your living room, you feel powerless so this was a great way to get power and do something positive in the face of negativity,” Moak says.
Moak currently is the sponsor of a young woman but has also helped another while her host family was on vacation. That woman says right now she has not had any contact with her family in eastern Ukraine since landing in the United States just days ago. “It’s sad because I hope can talk and see them but I don’t know when,” she says.
According to an official with North America for Ukraine, who Moak went through to become a sponsor, there are more refugees than people willing to sponsor them, which is causing a backlog in terms of resettlement cases.
One of the big misconceptions people seeking to become sponsors come across, Moak says, is that the sponsors will be liable to cover any and all expenses.
“A host or a sponsor rather is only required.. not even required, it’s a moral obligation as opposed to a binding contract with this form of sponsorship which is unique to the U4U program,” Moak explains, “and a sponsor or host only contributes as much as they are willing to. So a lot of times they will talk to the Ukrainians before they get here and find out what their needs are.”
In late April, President Joe Biden announced the “Uniting for Ukraine” program which allows up to 100,000 refugees expedited access to the United States. Those Ukrainians are eligible to stay in the country for up to two years. So far, the program has had 45,000 Americans submit applications to become sponsors according to the Department of Homeland Security.