In addition to a crash course in pedagogy, last week’s journées d’accueil also functioned as a sprint through almost every bit of French bureaucracy that I (and my fellow assistants) have been stressing about all summer:
- Officially signing our work contracts
- Opening a French bank account (needs to be done as soon as possible so we can get paid earlier than the end of November)
- Sending in our immigration paperwork to the OFII (so they can schedule our mandatory medical visits as quickly as possible)
- Procuring l’assurance locative (a confusing form of renter’s insurance that includes theft of our stuff but also covers things like camping or fishing accidents…)
Stéphane and Cathie pretty much held our hands through all of the above, but we’re kind of on our own for the CAF.
CAF stands for Caisse d’allocations familiales, a government organization that provides monetary assistance for things like child care, back to school costs, costs involved in taking care of a handicapped child or adult, and— most relevant to me—housing aid.
Essentially it’s the kind of rely-on-the-government-for-everything kind of socialist program that conservative Republicans have brainwashed themselves into believing Obama has planned for America. If only…
But while the CAF sounds great (if my application is accepted, I’ll get between 100 and 150 euros back each month to help pay my rent. NB: I only pay 270 euros/month for rent which is roughly a third of my salary—after taxes), the whole application process is a major pain in the ass. Surprise!
First we had to go to the CAF office to pick up the varied application forms (there are three that ask for essentially the same information, only organized differently, and one that asks me to report my income from 2010…), which the lady at the office dated and stamped with an official-looking stamp.
Then we have to remplir les formulaires, and here’s the catch, at least one of them has to be filled out and signed by the landlord. But wait, Maurice doesn’t live in Auch! This means we have to mail him the forms and wait for him to fill them out and send them back.
The best part is that he knew we had to do this, was hanging out in Auch to make us sign leases, and then left first thing Monday before we could get the forms. Classy.
Finally, once everything is filled out, we each have to make an individualized appointment at the CAF office to submit our dossiers (which have to include photo copies of our passports and visas, a copy of our leases, and a pay stub, the last of which we won’t have until November).
While the CAF is French socialism at its finest, the application process ironically resembles a weird kind of (capitalist) survival of the fittest. The aid is technically available to anyone, but all the circuitous forms and rendez-vous seem poised to weed out those “unworthy” of assistance. In a perverse way, you still have to earn it.