SACRAMENTO, Calif — It's been nearly five months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Since then, thousands of Ukrainians have fled the war — many crossing through the U.S. Mexico border and eventually seeking refuge in Sacramento. Several months later, Vlad Skots, Chairman of the Ukrainian American House says those refugees are facing another crisis — the inability to earn money as they continue to wait for their work permits to be authorized.
"People want to work. People want to pay for themselves. People want to pay taxes,” said Skots. "We've been notified that it probably will take more than one year for them to get a work permit."
However, that date is too far out for the refugees who quickly need to get on their own feet including Artem Lakotii and his wife. The couple is expecting their first child to be born in the coming weeks.
"In our profession, I am the barber and my wife, she doing makeup and brows,” said Lakotii. "We don't know what to do. We're just waiting for some benefits or some help."
"This is hard times and my family needs help and I need to earn money to have good life here,” said Speranska Sonia, a refugee that came to Sacramento a few months ago.
ABC10 interviewed Ilona Kravanskya back in April when she and her children first settled into a new life with a host family in Sacramento. Three months later, she's among the thousands also still relying on assistance from friends and family while eager to start working and rebuilding her life. Kavranskya spoke to ABC10 through a translator.
"I am an adult, a healthy adult that can work and provide for my family. For me, it's really hard to see that the family I stay with, they provide everything for me. I am capable to work and I want to sustain my family,” said Kavranskya.
Her family's host believes more guidance from the government is desperately needed when it comes to assisting Ukrainian refugees.
"It's been frustrating to get information on what services are available to the refugees and how to apply for work authorization and how to get cash assistance,” said Helen Sundet, Kavranskya’s host.
The Ukrainian American House now calling on elected officials to take swift action to help expedite the process of approving employment authorization applications and issuing work permits emphasizing this issue is urgent and must be prioritized.
"I hope that some changes will be very shortly on the way and the problem will be solved,” said Skots.
"We are willing to benefit this country with our job and with the work of our hands, and also with our taxes. We are really willing to thank this country by our work,” said Kavranskya.
The Ukrainian American House has created a fundraiser to assist refugees. The link can be found here.