WARREN, Mich. – Saturday, July 15, 2023
I was absolutely devastated upon learning about the distressing attack mailer that was maliciously distributed to the residents of Warren on July 15, 2023. The mailer, which was funded by the Macomb Alliance for Progress and had a registered address in Farmington Hills, aimed to mislead and defame my character. I would like to assert that there is absolutely no validity to the intimidation and tabloid-like mailer that has been circulated.
I am not just a county commissioner and small business owner, but also a devoted mother to four young children. In 2018, while pregnant with my fourth child, I started my own apparel company, Mai&Co LLC, in the humble confines of my own garage in Warren. Drawing inspiration from my ethnic Hmong heritage, I used my sewing and design skills to make women’s leggings, dresses and home decor in colorful patterns and prints. My business quickly outgrew our home and I asked my husband to help me with the business. We decided to relocate our inventory to a more suitable location on East Twelve Mile Road, just a few blocks away from our home and across from the Tech Center, in September 2019.
However, our dreams were soon shattered by the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. In March 2020, like countless businesses across Michigan, we were forced to close our store. My children’s school was closed and I spent the rest of the year helping them get back on track through virtual learning as my husband was looking for a new job. At this time, my youngest daughter was 14 months old, my two boys were 4, and 6 and my oldest was 8 years old. It was an incredibly challenging period for our family.
The attack mailer that was sent to residents of Warren falsely claimed that I had unlawfully received “$7,100 of Macomb County grant money and $10,000 from the city of Warren.” Furthermore, it listed my personal cell phone number and urged recipients to call me and demand repayment for these alleged grants. Regrettably, since the mailer’s distribution, I have received distressing phone calls, with one caller leaving a voice message and calling me a “criminal”. The emotional toll this has taken on me and my family is immeasurable.
It is important to emphasize that the process of applying for and receiving grants, whether public or private, is an arduous and meticulous one. It involves comprehensive application questionnaires, profit-loss statements, income and expense reports, employee details and compensation, tax returns, financial statements, and more.
As a law-abiding business owner who operated my business in Warren during the pandemic, Mai&Co LLC legitimately applied for and received $7,100 in Covid-19 grant funding from Macomb County in 2020. It is essential to note that this occurred before my election to serve on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners. During the months of closure, the grant funds were utilized to cover our outstanding rent to the landlord and to invest in essential equipment and supplies to ensure a safe reopening for our customers and employees.
Our business faced tremendous hardship throughout 2021 and like many women and minority-owned businesses, we encountered substantial barriers when attempting to apply for the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program). Unfortunately, due to these barriers, we did not meet the qualifications necessary to secure the loan. In addition, the foot traffic we had prior to the pandemic did not fully return, and customers understandably remained cautious about visiting physical stores and displaying our apparel in public. Consequently, my husband and I found ourselves struggling to manage the business expenses, pay our staff, and meet our family’s own basic needs. We were unable to draw a salary, as every dollar earned was reinvested into the business and used to support our staff.
In April 2021, the federal Community Development Block Grant, provided through the CARES Act to aid businesses in responding to the ongoing coronavirus, became available to us. As a family of six, with my husband’s income and my part-time role as a county commissioner, our annual household income fell below 80% of the Area Median Income, making us eligible to apply for and ultimately receive a $10,000 grant administered by the City of Warren. This short-term financial assistance proved invaluable in covering expenses including our part-time staff wages, rent, and utilities.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, our business was unable to fully recover its pre-pandemic sales. In March 2022, almost a year after receiving the grant, our last employee decided to move on, and faced with the challenging circumstances, I made the heartbreaking decision not to renew our lease. Consequently, we were compelled to close our beloved shop.
It is my hope that by sharing my personal journey and the challenges my family and business have faced, I can shed light on the misleading nature of the attack mailer. I want to assure the residents of Warren that I have always acted within the bounds of the law, with integrity and transparency, throughout the entire process of applying for and receiving grants. The false accusations levied against me are not only baseless but also deeply hurtful to me and my loved ones.
I remain committed to serving my community, and I am determined to turn this unfortunate situation into an opportunity for growth and resilience. I appreciate the support and understanding of those who know me and my character. Together, we will overcome this setback and continue to strive for a brighter future.