The County Connection

Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

 April 2023

After the passing of the Texas Trigger Law, which bans most abortions, many providers in Texas are seeing an increased demand for reproductive healthcare services and contraception. In early March, Harris County Commissioner’s Court approved a $6 million program to support access to reproductive services such as contraceptive services, family planning education, preconception health screenings, and STI testing, prevention, and education. I want everyone in our community to be able to focus on their priorities, on their goals and their families, and have access to the resources they need to live their lives the way they want. This isn’t a fight we asked for but we’ll fight it on behalf of the families of Harris County.

We have another reason to celebrate! I am so happy to welcome Lesley Briones to Commissioners Court to serve Precinct Four, marking the first time two women have served on Commissioners Court in Harris County history. I’m eager to work with her and all of our Commissioners to tackle the big challenges we are facing and continue our work to better the lives of every resident in Harris County.

Lina Hidalgo

County News

Harris County is Resilient

Applications for low-interest loans continue to remain available to those impacted by the January 24th tornado that touched down in the area surrounding Deer Park, Pasadena, and Baytown — damaging at least 1,370 single-family homes and 205 multi-family units. Applicants may apply online and more information is available or Applicants may also apply in person at the locations below.

Pasadena Convention Center and Municipal Fairgrounds

7902 Fairmont Parkway, Pasadena, TX 77507 (Room 102/103)

Mondays – Fridays, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

John Phelps Courthouse Annex

101 S. Richey Street, Pasadena, TX 77506 (Suite #F)

Mondays – Fridays, 8:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Harris County Expands Fund to Assist
Residents Facing Eviction

In Harris County, residents are under-represented by attorneys when an eviction is filed against them. From 2020 to 2022, 146,618 eviction cases were filed and of those cases, only 1.92% of defendants were assisted by attorneys. In these same situations, landlords almost always have legal representation. To assist renters fighting eviction, commissioners court last month expanded the Housing Legal Services Fund with $4 million for legal aid that will fund support for approximately 5,010 eligible cases total with approximately 90% receiving full representation and the remaining receiving brief services. Applications for assistance are open now. To apply or learn more about the program, click here.

More High-Skill, High-Growth Jobs for Harris County!

The jobs of the future are coming right here to the heart of Harris County! In February we were excited to announce the approval of $31.6 million to provide training to unemployed and underemployed veterans and young adults through specialized apprenticeship and retraining programs. The programs administered by NPower and the AFL-CIO will prepare folks for careers in high-growth industries like cybersecurity, IT support, and IT administration, construction, nursing, and more. This move marks just the first step of our work to expand workforce training in the County!

Harris County
Approved $26.2M Investment to Create Up to 1,000 New High-Quality Childcare slots

Last month, Harris County Commissioners Court approved a $26.2 million federal American Rescue Plan Act investment to create up to 1,000 new high-quality childcare slots for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in areas of Harris County with the highest need. This full-year, full-day high-quality child care will be available to eligible families at no cost and pay staff a living wage of $15 an hour. The program builds on our groundbreaking Brighter Futures for Harris County Kids Initiative.

“This is a historic investment. Never before has Harris County had such a strong focus on children and high-quality child care that will transform lives for generations to come,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “This is an important step for charting a brighter future for our young ones. The American Rescue Plan Act provided an unprecedented opportunity to invest in families, and we’re making the most of it.”

Major Expansion of Jail Competency Restoration Program to Cut Case Backlog and Jail Population

In Harris County, we have over 220 individuals in jail with significant mental health needs languishing in jail – sometimes for years – just to get access to the educational resources and services that will help them restore competency in order to stand trial. This month, Commissioners Court approved $646,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to provide the services needed to more than double the number of individuals annually restored to competency, which will help reduce the jail population and overcrowding, and cut the court case backlog.

We’ve all heard the Harris County jail is Texas’ largest provider of mental health services. This is one step forward in changing that.

Breaking Ground on Harris County’s Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Efforts

The Harris County Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) program is one part of our aggressive efforts to tackle and reduce crime, clean up the streets in neighborhoods where decay and abandonment are driving violent crime, and ultimately contribute to keeping our communities safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “communities applying CPTED activities have reported decreases in gun violence, youth homicide, disorderly conduct, and violent crime.”

The Precincts and Harris County Public Health (HCPH) are currently working to carry out CPTED investments in target, high-crime, neighborhoods. CPTED is just another tool in the toolbox we can use to help our law enforcement officers and our courts focus on tackling violent crime.

Harris County Offers 10% Discount for EZ Tag Drivers of Two-Axle Vehicles

Here in Harris County, we know that transportation is not a luxury. That’s why Commissioners Court has approved to cut the toll road rates by 10% for two-axle vehicles. This will put more money in the pockets of our residents and taxpayers to spend on gas, groceries, and other essentials. The updated policy will allow those without bank accounts to pay for EZ tag fees using cash.

Harris County Approves Climate Action Plan, Taking Significant Step in Our Commitment to Sustainability and Fighting Climate Change

Harris County takes the threat of climate change to our region and its residents seriously. That’s why Judge Hidalgo and Commissioners Court approved a bold Harris County Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP’s goal is to guide the County toward reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% by 2030 through emission reduction in our buildings, fleet and commuting, procurement, and waste management. The CAP was designed using nationwide best practices and crafted alongside community partners to transition our entire region and its residents towards a more climate prepared, environmentally just, and economically vibrant future.

Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council to Receive $4.7 Million in ARPA Funding

Domestic Violence is connected to a third of the homicides in Harris County. To help families suffering the trauma of domestic violence and put a stop to related crime, Judge Lina Hidalgo and Harris County Commissioners in March made a historic commitment to the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council with the award of $4.7 million. With this award, the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (HCDVCC) created a process to grant 20 community organizations this much-needed critical capital.  These flexible funds will serve more than 3,000 families with over 6,600 individuals by providing direct financial assistance to support their immediate needs such as rental and utility assistance, safe hotel stays, moving assistance, car repairs, basic needs, childcare, mental health services, and legal services.

Harris County Eliminates Library Late Fees

Harris County residents who check out a book from their Harris County-run public library will no longer need to pay library fees for returning their books after the due date. Harris County Commissioners Court passed a motion to make Harris County Public Library a fine-free library system which effectively eliminates fines for late returns of borrowed items. Research has shown that these fines tend to deter library use rather than influence people to return items on time, or even at all. Fines often only account for a small portion of a library system’s budget but are usually an administrative burden for staff.

Apply to Serve on a Harris County Board!

Did you know Harris County has over 60 boards and commissions that residents can serve on? From housing finance to local history, the boards cover a wide range of topics, and we’re always looking for candidates to fill these roles. Your work background or lived experience might make you a perfect fit. If you are interested in contributing to the success of the County by serving, we encourage you to learn about the county boards and fill out our online application! For more information, click here.

Harris County Approves Stipend for Members of Essential Workers Board

Harris County runs on essential workers. And now all of the essential workers serving on Harris County’s groundbreaking Essential Workers Board (EWB) will receive a stipend for their service. Oftentimes, seats on boards and commissions go to folks who can afford to do unpaid work. This stipend opens the door for everyday people to shape the policies that affect them.

New Safety Record Policy To Keep Workers Safe

All workers in Harris County deserve to be treated fairly and have safe working conditions. Last month, Commissioners Court approved a new Harris County Contractor Safety Record Policy to ensure that Harris County works only with contractors and subcontractors that prioritize the health and safety of their workers. This new policy will ensure a baseline of safety for all contracted county workers.

Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program to Inform National Conversation on Eviction Crisis

Our historic Houston-Harris County Emergency Rental Assistance Program has provided more than $315 million in rental assistance to more than 76,000 households impacted by COVID-19 and has been recognized by the White House for its efficiency in delivering relief. Judge Hidalgo previously spoke at a White House round-table about how the program has cut red tape and sped up payments to landlords, keeping families from being evicted. So we are not surprised that Princeton University’s Eviction Lab has proposed an exciting research initiative to work with Harris County’s Rental Assistance Program to inform academic research and conversations to advance public understanding of the eviction crisis.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Commissioners Court Meetings

As part of the County Judge’s Office initiative to make local government more transparent and accessible, we invite you to get involved by viewing Commissioners Court meetings. You can check here to see the meeting schedule, and watch the official close captioned livestream here or on the Judge’s homepage here.

Upcoming Flood Control Bond Project Meetings

Harris County never stops preparing for the next big storm. And while the 2018 Harris County Flood Control District Bond Program is in full swing, we continue to seek input from community members as we implement projects in watersheds across the County. If you have a comment about a particular project, we invite you to attend the corresponding virtual meeting and be part of the planning process. Learn more about upcoming 2018 Bond Program Community Engagement Meetings here.

Hazardous Waste Collection Appointments

Do you have unwanted household hazardous items? Properly dispose of them by making an appointment with the Household Hazardous Waste Collections facility at 6900 Hahl Road in Houston. Learn what items are accepted and make an appointment here.

About Judge Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is the head of Harris County’s governing body and Director of the Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Judge Hidalgo, alongside four County Precinct Commissioners, oversees a budget of approximately $5 billion that funds services and institutions for the third-largest county in the nation, home to nearly 5 million people.
For more information about Harris County and the Office of the County Judge, click here.