Clinton-era welfare reforms haunt America's poorest families, critics say

At the Cultural Cup food bank in Phoenix, Arizona, Sabiha Keskin has watched a growing trend in recent years of people forced to sell food stamps for cash to help pay the rent or utilities, and then coming to her food bank to feed their children.

“There’s a lot more single parents coming in, male and female, because they have cash issues,” said Keskin who herself relied on welfare payments to raise her five children after she served seven years in the US air force and then was unable to find work.

“I was on assistance for 18 years on and off. I got cash assistance, I got food stamps. That’s mostly gone today. When I first got out of the military we got food stamps and $725 in cash. Now it’s nothing like that. The system was better then. Now it’s a joke. Sometimes the money is so little people don’t even want to bother with the paperwork.”

In Arizona today, if Keskin even qualified for cash welfare payments at all they would be a fraction of what she once received. That is true across large parts of the US where the number of low-income parents who receive cash welfare payments they can use to pay bills or buy clothes for their children has been cut dramatically over the last two decades.