The County Connection
Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge
Harris County, you never fail to impress. Across the country, people are buzzing about the incredible numbers of voters we have had during our early vote period. By the time early voting shut down last Friday after 18 days,1,435,221 (or 57.85% of registered voters) had cast their ballots. That is well beyond the total number of voters for each of the entire 2016 and 2018 elections! You have come through this election season by volunteering to help folks register, working the polls, and generally offering one another the support and encouragement we all need to believe that we can make a difference. We are a strong, resilient, and driven community and we are determined to have our voices heard, both within Texas and across the country. I have never been more proud of our residents and our tireless poll workers who are making this incredible movement of civic participation happen.
And while you all are showing up for this election like never before, Harris County government has been working harder than ever before to make your voting experience what you need it to be. We are bending over backwards to make sure that our polls are safe for you to visit — by offering masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, and finger coverings, and ensuring social distancing. We tripled the number of early vote locations and worked with partners to open large accessible venues such as the Toyota Center, NRG, and BBVA Stadium. For the first time, we offered drive-thru voting and had a day in which polls were open 24 hours. We are doing everything we can to make the voting process what it should be — safe, secure, and accessible so that every eligible resident can confidently exercise their right to vote, and in the middle of a global pandemic, no less.
Tomorrow, November 3rd, is election day, your final day to vote. So many of you have already cast your ballots in this election, but, for those who haven’t, please don’t miss this chance to make history. If you requested a mail-in ballot, please drop it off at the county’s mail ballot drop-off location at NRG Park. If you’re voting in person, I promise it will be as painless as possible. I know you won’t let your county or your country down.
It’s never been easier or more important. Make a plan, make it happen, change our future — Vote!
Harris County Approves $10 Million Fund to Support Research-Driven Early Childhood Development Programs
The COVID-19 epidemic has disrupted our everyday lives, but that disruption does not diminish the pressing needs of our most vulnerable residents. On October 27, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved a $10 million Early Childhood Impact Fund to make investments in high-impact early childhood initiatives and programs that work to improve the health and development of Harris County’s youngest children. A portion of the fund will be used to hire a third-party research team to evaluate results of the selected initiatives.
This groundbreaking fund marks the first time Harris County has significantly invested in early childhood programs, which research demonstrates have one of the strongest returns on investment for any type of public program. Quality early childhood care and education can prevent future developmental deficiencies, help close achievement and income gaps, reduce health disparities, and save taxpayers in lower health and social costs. Judge Hidalgo previously hosted an Early Childhood Community Conversation as well as a series of virtual community conversations to gather community input from families, caretakers, and professionals on what families need most when it comes to early childhood.
The application for early childhood programs interested in receiving funding will be due by January 29, and programs are expected to be selected and funded by the end of March 2021. An advisory council of early childhood experts and professionals will be established to ensure that evidence-based, high quality programs are included to make the biggest difference for Harris County’s young children and their families. Visit HarrisCountyKids.com for more information on Harris County’s early childhood efforts and the Early Childhood Impact Fund as it becomes available.
Applications Open for $40 Million COVID-19 Direct Assistance Relief Fund November 2nd through November 6th
Applications for the Harris County Emergency Direct Assistance Fund will open today, Monday, November 2, and close Friday, November 6. The Fund, administered by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, will provide one-time payments of $1200 to up to 33,333 families struggling with financial hardship related to COVID-19. These funds can be used for any type of emergency expense (housing, food, utilities, healthcare, childcare, transportation, etc.), and families can apply on their own.
“Thousands of families across Harris County have struggled to overcome the financial damage from COVID-19,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “While this relief will not reach everyone who needs it, we must do everything in our power to help those who are vulnerable pull through.”
The fund is entirely need-based, and the money will be distributed equally across Harris County’s four precincts. Applicants may apply online at CatholicCharitiesHelp.org. This fund will not be first-come, first-serve, so applicants will have an equal chance at receiving funding no matter when they submit their application during the five-day window. Because the application process requires applicants to upload documents, all applications must be submitted online. Applicants who want help or who have questions may call the hotline at (832) 990-1318, Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
County Judge’s Office to Publish Commissioner’s Court Highlight Videos to Website and Youtube Channel
If you missed the latest Commissioners Court meeting and are feeling a little left out, you can now check out the highlights of what you missed on Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s YouTube Channel. “This Week at Court,” Commissioner’s Court recap videos, will be posted following every Commissioner’s Court meeting with the latest breaking news from Harris County government. The videos are Judge Hidalgo’s latest effort to make local government more transparent and accessible for County residents. Check out the one- to two-minute videos on YouTube here.
New Harris County Animal Shelter Opens its Doors for Residents to Adopt a Pet
If your family is looking to adopt a fur baby for the holidays, visit the newly unveiled Harris County Pets Resource Center. The new shelter will provide three and a half times the amount of space as the original shelter that it replaces, increasing capacity to 525 animals, or 315 dogs and 210 cats. Dog pens in the new shelter have both indoor and outdoor space for them to play, cats have their own “cat condos,” and quarantine areas are available to stop the spread of disease. The building also makes it easier for residents hoping to adopt — “Get Acquainted” areas allow you to get to know an animal before taking her home and a more ample and welcoming space is available for adoption events and counseling rooms. To find out how you can adopt a pet in need of a home, visit Harris CountyPets.com.
Harris County Commits Additional $10 Million to Help Students Bridge Digital Divide
Harris County is still working hard to assist students struggling to complete school work from home without internet or laptops. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved an additional $10 million for the purchase of devices and hotspots for Harris County children attending school virtually during the COVID-19 epidemic. The County had previously allocated $32 million for the purchase of devices in early August. 64,000 internet devices and 190,000 electronic devices have already been ordered via the programs. In Texas, one in four students do not have devices at home for virtual learning, and 34% of these students lack adequate access to the internet. 66% of these students are African-American, Hispanic, or Native American. The county is also funding an evaluation of long-term infrastructure solutions for areas of our county that do not have connectivity.
Harris County Commissioner’s Court Votes to Recognize Second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day
Honoring all of our residents and decrying the injustices they have faced in our history is an important part of celebrating the diversity of Harris County. Last month, Harris County Commissioner’s Court voted to designate the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day, honoring the contributions of indigenous nations to our society as well as acknowledging the immense prejudice, adversity, and erasure they have endured for centuries. Indigenous Peoples Day will bring recognition to the history of the many native peoples of our region, such as the Karankawa, Apache, Cherokee, Comanche, and Kickapoo among others, as an alternative to Columbus Day.
Agreement Between Harris County and Centerpoint Energy Paves the Way for Hundreds of Additional Miles of Hike and Bike Trails
Fall weather in Texas is perfect for getting outside for a walk, and in the future Harris County residents could have hundreds of miles of additional hike and bike trails to choose from. On October 27, Harris County Commissioners Court approved a master agreement that allows for the future development of up to 10 foot wide hike and bike trails within Centerpoint Energy’s corridors and easements. For more information about plans in your area, please check with your precinct’s office.
Harris County to Build Memorial to Commemorate Black Victims of Lynching in Harris County
Some of the things that really make our County special are our rich diversity, history, and our willingness to reckon with our mistakes. In September, Harris County Commissioner’s Court approved the building of the County’s first lynching memorial to be built in downtown to commemorate the lives of four black men that were violently and unjustly murdered. The memorial will be built near the County Courthouse complex as a reminder of all of those who were denied justice in the past and our duty to right those wrongs as best we can in the present.
Take the Harris County Housing Survey to Share What Home Means to You
What does home mean to you? Share your thoughts by participating in the Harris County Housing Survey through the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University. This survey asks questions about what you value in a safe, affordable home, and takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Visit MyHomeIsHere.org to take the survey now.
Deadline Approaching for Small Businesses to Apply for Watson Explosion-Related Working Capital Loans
Texas small businesses have until November 13, 2020 to apply for a United States Small Business Administration (SBA) federal disaster loan for economic injury caused by the Watson Grinding and Manufacturing Facility explosion. Small non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private nonprofit organizations of any size may apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Interest rates are 3.75 percent for businesses and 2.75 percent for private nonprofit organizations with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications here. You can also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Harris County Multimodal Thoroughfare Plan Meeting
Overall general mobility and alternative transit modes are critical to keep Harris County strong with access to all regional and international assets. Learn about implementation strategies to accelerate construction and leverage partnerships across local, state, and federal agencies during the virtual meeting scheduled for Nov. 17, 2020, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Register and learn more about the Harris County Transportation Planning Series by visiting HarrisVisionZero.org.
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.
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.