I finally tried to register with FEMA today on a friends computer, but the FEMA website isn't compatible with their operating system--that very rare Windows XP. So I had to do it by phone. There was a long list of questions, which made it clear that the FEMA relief system is set up only to help people of a certain class level. If I don't qualify, imagine how it must be for most of the poverty stricken residents of New Orleans.
Do I own my house? No.
Is it a place of business? No.
Do I know the extent of the damage? No, I'm not allowed to check.
Did I become unemployed because of the disaster? Not officially.
Would I like any eventual assistance deposited directly in my bank? Yes, but I don't have my bank info, it is in my house.
Then they told me that I could possibly get reimbursed for rent of a new place. And I can check into taking out a loan.
I began screaming questions into the phone.
"Hold on," the rep said, "I'm not done with my script." The rest of the script suggested that I call the Red Cross and apply to the IRS for a partial refund of taxes. Again, if you don't make money, you don't pay that much in taxes, so basically, we're all screwed.
Is this the extent of what they have to offer? I asked.
The official answer: "We don't know."