“What’s Next?” this week interviews Brett Heimov, the Managing Director of the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm Envision Strategy. Brett was recently retained to represent the people of Flint, Michigan, in the ongoing crisis over Flint’s water supply. A Capitol Hill veterans, he shares his insights over what’s next in congressional deliberations over Flint and what the crisis means for future environmental and public health policy.
Brett, thank you for your time and insight. There are few issues as urgent and far-reaching as providing relief to the people of Flint. What attracted you to their cause?
After representing the 9/11 first responders and seeing the human suffering that could have been completely avoided had the proper precautions been taken, I am just as appalled with the Flint situation. None of this needed to happen had government just done its job properly or at the very least admitted its error early on to limit the damage caused, particularly to thousands of children.
What are the prospects and timetable for Congressional action on a special fund for the people of Flint?
I believe the prospects are very good. We have spoken with a number of congressional offices that are inclined to work with us in our efforts. Everyone recognizes the need for long-term healthcare for Flint residents, particularly the children.
The timetable however is another story. Being a presidential election year the speed is anyone’s guess. We are hopeful we can have this accomplished by the end of the expected lame duck this year. But it all depends on opposition from Members of Congress who simply don’t see this as a federal issue. They may need some convincing.
What policy impact is a special Flint fund likely to have?
The biggest impact will be where to find the money. As most people know, appropriated funds need to find an offset from within the existing budget. While we have not determined how much that will need to be, it will not be insignificant due to the scale of the human damage.
What will be its long-term repercussions?
I think the better question is what are the long-term repercussions if we do nothing? We already know thousands of children have developed health problems, both short- and long-term. If they do not get proper care, we are putting a whole generation of kids in Flint at risk.