Flint residents hire first K Street firm

The residents of Flint, Mich. officially have a voice in Washington, as a firm representing about 1,000 victims of the city’s water contamination has come to K Street to help establish a compensation fund.

Bipartisan lobbying firm Envision Strategy signed the New York-based Napoli Shkolnik, a firm spun-off from another that had been known for representing 9/11 first responders. 

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Brett Heimov, former chief of staff to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), is running the advocacy campaign to hopefully provide financial relief and healthcare guarantees of those sickened by the drinking water contamination in the impoverished Michigan town.

A bill moving through Congress would address the crumbling infrastructure that allowed toxic levels of lead to leech into public water systems – a $250 million package that would touch on the health issues faced by Flint residents.

Heimov says that while the bill wouldn’t go far enough in providing actual help to individuals, he and his clients do support it. The legislation is running into issues in the Senate, with questions over how it will be paid for coming to the forefront.

“Hopefully we'll see that humans are more important than pipes,” Heimov said. “You have children who have lifelong issues because of this.”

Napoli Shkolnik represents roughly 1,000 people who live in Flint – and that number is reportedly growing rapidly. Other firms who represent residents in the county may also join in the effort.

Flint’s lead-tainted water is thought to be behind scores of illnesses and long-term health damage, including an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that has killed almost a dozen people and sickened many more. 

Envision just started work for the law firm last Monday and is still working through strategies of how to negotiate with lawmakers, including what programs could help pay for any compensation fund.

It’s not a process unfamiliar to Heimov or his team – which also includes Steve Stallmer, who most recently served as chief of staff to Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), and has worked for other New York Republicans. Envision last year brought on former Rep. Tim BishopTim BishopDems separated by 29 votes in NY House primary Flint residents hire first K Street firm House moves to vote on .1T package; backup plan in place MORE (D-N.Y.), who retired at the end of 2014.

On Capitol Hill, Heimov worked on drafting the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provided healthcare and compensation to take care of first responders who were sickened working at Ground Zero, and the families of victims.