The County Connection
Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge
December 2020

We all knew this was coming. The holidays are here, and we are simply not where we need to be to protect our community from COVID-19. Since late summer, there has been a deeply troubling loss in the momentum we’d begun to build as a community. Reopenings took place prematurely and, bit by bit, we’ve seen every indicator we use move in the wrong direction, again. No single day-to-day change has been dramatic, but, if you look at the trends, they are alarming and deadly:
  • Since mid-September, the 14-day average of daily new cases we report in Harris County has increased more than 4 times over to 1016 new cases reported per day.
  • Over the past month, that same number of average daily new cases has more than doubled.
  • We have seen our county positivity rate increase from its low in early October of 5.4%. We’re now at 9.4%.
  • We’re adding as many patients to our ICUs every day as we were in early June. We are tracking trends in our hospitalized COVID population just like the ones we were seeing before the crisis in June and July.
This is our wake-up call. These numbers don’t even take into account all of those that were inevitably infected at Thanksgiving gatherings, and don’t know it yet — we’ll see those numbers in the next few weeks. We’re eight months into this crisis, and I know we’ve all grown tired. But we can’t give in. We are in the middle of fighting a war against COVID-19, and if we care about our friends, family members, and neighbors, we must do more.
First, cancel gatherings, large and small, with anyone outside your household. Right now we all have a desire to be together, I know. But now is not the time. By doing so, you put them, and yourself, at risk.
Second, get tested, whether or not you have symptoms or believe you’ve been exposed. The only way we can contain the virus now is for those who are carrying the virus to quarantine, and no one knows whether they are carrying the virus or not until they get tested. Visit for all the free options, or check with your medical provider.
I understand all of this is a lot to ask of the community. But all of these measures will save lives, even if you don’t immediately see it in front of you. Just like the virus, these sacrifices are invisible, but nonetheless substantial. And, as we make these sacrifices consistently and dutifully, we should be asking our state and federal government to meet us halfway. We need more measures to mitigate the impacts of the virus, and we need more economic relief for families and for the businesses that are suffering in the wake of this crisis.
Please try and enjoy the holidays despite this heavy weight we are all carrying. Take solace in knowing that as humans we’ve lived through much worse, and we will again. We are strong and we will get through this. Better days are coming.
Lina Hidalgo

County News

Watch Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s State of the County Fireside Chat

On November 12, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo sat down with HEB’s Scott McClelland to discuss the current State of the County during the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversation focused on the pandemic itself and urgent issues that have risen around it, such as the need for internet connectivity and devices, emergency financial assistance and funding, and a consistent, data-focused approach when issuing orders and setting indicators for reopening. The discussion also touched on a broad range of topics impacting County residents including the local economy, the pressing need for the Ike Dike, the George Floyd protests and addressing racial disparities, and Harris County’s new fund for early childhood education programming. This year, the address was live streamed for free. If you missed it, you can view the recorded video on the Judge’s Facebook page here.

New $2.5 Million Deportation Fund to Assist Immigrants In Need of Legal Representation

Immigrants vying to remain in this country are in a vulnerable position — they often do not have the funds to secure an attorney to help them plead their case. This disadvantage often results in immigrants who have a legal claim to remain in the country being deported, a tragic break in access to justice. In November, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved a $2.5 million fund to provide legal services for immigrants in deportation proceedings who may not be able to pay for their own. An additional $500,000 will go to assisting immigrants who have been victims of crimes such as human trafficking. This legal fund follows investments in indigent defense in Harris County and defense for tenants facing evictions who cannot afford an attorney. Harris County follows other metro areas across the nation, including Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, to offer legal assistance for immigrants facing deportation.

Harris County Sets New Standards for Family-Friendly Workplace Policies in Local Government

The COVID-19 epidemic has shed a harsh light on all the ways that parents need a village to help raise their children. Without proper workplace protections and quality childcare, employees just beginning their parenting journey after the birth of a child are already at a disadvantage. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court demonstrated their support for Harris County employees by instating family-friendly workplace policies that are proven to boost productivity and job satisfaction. The policies include up to 12 weeks paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers, additional sick leave to care for ill children, lactation rooms in county buildings, and resources for finding and selecting childcare. The County will also build a new employee resources webpage to promote awareness of the new family-friendly policies, which will serve as a model for best employment practices for local governments around the country.

Harris County Takes Steps to Improve Equity in Contracting Practices for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

Women and minority-owned businesses now have a fairer shot when competing for millions of dollars in Harris County contracting work. On November 10, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved a framework that will help ensure more of these businesses will be hired to carry out Harris County’s contract work such as road construction, waste collection, and sewage maintenance. In July 2020, a study of Harris County contracting practices revealed that 28% of qualified firms are owned by minorities or women yet only 9% of the county’s contract dollars go to these businesses. Harris County’s newly formed Office of Equity and Economic Opportunity will lead the efforts in implementing the framework and correcting these inequities in addition to looking out for the overall economic competitiveness of the county as the business environment continues to evolve.

Harris County to Provide Legal Assistance for Renters to Fight Evictions

While we continue to battle the Coronavirus, families across Harris County are fighting insurmountable financial hardships and destructive consequences brought on by the epidemic. According to data from the Eviction Lab, in Harris County there are 48 evictions per day, and, this year, more than nearly 27,000 eviction cases have been filed. Attorneys represent less than 3% of tenants in eviction proceedings. In early November, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court stood up for those facing eviction for reasons outside of their control by boosting a fund to provide $1 million for legal representation for renters in Court via the COVID-19 Housing Legal Services Initiative. The Initiative had originally been allocated $750,000 in July. This past August, Harris County also created the COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program to provide direct rental assistance for tenants and landlords.

Harris County Approves Study to Explore Alternatives for Hardy Toll Downtown Connector Corridor

On December 1st, Harris County Commissioner’s Court approved a study of potential uses for the corridor which was originally intended to be the Hardy Toll Downtown Connector. The study will work with community members, Commissioners Court, and County staff to develop a plan that will fully take into consideration the local community and the region’s existing and future transportation network. The study will also offer various possibilities for use of the corridor that would include pedestrian, bikeway, and green space options. The Harris County community will be invited to participate in the planning process to ensure transparency and guarantee that any final plan takes public insight and needs into account.

Harris County Now Accepting Applications for Funding for High Quality Early Childhood Programming

Despite the ongoing COVID crisis, the issue of Early Childhood remains a priority for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. In October, Judge Hidalgo approved the Early Childhood Impact Fund (ECIF), which will invest up to $10 million in programs and interventions with significant potential to dramatically improve early childhood outcomes in Harris County. Service providers, organizations, researchers, and best-in-class early childhood programs are now invited to submit proposals for funding for their sustainable and scalable early childhood solutions for residents in the medium-to-long term. The deadline for submission is February 1, 2021. For more information, please visit or click here.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Encourages Residents to Get Their Flu Shots

Have you gotten your flu shot yet? Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo wants to ensure that you and your family are prepared for the winter months while our community continues to battle a global epidemic. Watch Judge Hidalgo’s video message on the importance of the flu vaccine here.

Harris County Partners with City to Provide Preparedness and Safety Videos for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

The Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HCOHSEM), in collaboration with the Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) and Deaf Link, have developed preparedness and safety videos for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Videos cover a wide range of topics including evacuation assistance, sheltering information during an emergency, power outages, and behavioral health, and include sign language interpreting with English and Spanish subtitles. These videos are one of many initiatives Harris County is taking to reach all members of our diverse community and improve accessibility to local government. All of the videos can be viewed on the Ready Harris website or on the Ready Harris YouTube channel.

Applications to Join the Community Flood Resilience Task Force Due on December 11th

Are you interested in helping Harris County improve our collective flood resilience and protect lives and property from future flooding events? The Community Flood Resilience Task Force (CFRTF) is looking for multi-disciplinary community members to further flood resilience efforts across Harris County. Applicants should:
  • Be residents of Harris County
  • Represent the geographic, gender, age, racial, and ethnic diversity of Harris County
  • Have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to serving the community
  • Be able to contribute meaningful time and effort to achieving the purpose and objectives of the CFRTF and meet at least once every other month for a total of at least six (6) times per year.
Applications for the Community Flood Resilience Task Force are due on December 11th. For more information and to apply, visit the CFRTF webpage here.

Submit your comments on the I-45/North Houston Highway Improvement Project by December 9th!

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), detailing the impacts of the proposed North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) and how it affects our communities. Harris County has co-funded this engagement effort to get the word out and engage community members to ensure transparency in this process. For information on how to review the document and submit comments, click here. The deadline to submit your comment is December 9th.

Upcoming Events

HazMobile to Conduct Collection of Household Hazardous Waste in Community

HazMobile will be collecting household hazardous waste (batteries, oil, paint, and antifreeze) in the community during December and January. The remaining dates and collection locations are:
  • December 5, 2020 at the Precinct 4 Service Center at 14444 Holderrieth Road in Tomball
  • December 19, 2020 at the Hardy Service Center at 11901 West Hardy Road
  • January 16, 2021 at the Crosby Community Center at 409 Hare Road in Crosby
You can also drop off hazardous waste via appointment at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility. Appointment slots for hazardous waste drop-off are filling up fast, so book your appointment far ahead of time. To make an appointment, visit the Household Hazardous Waste webpage here. For a full list of acceptable materials for drop-off, click here.

Harris County Equity in Transportation Plan Virtual Meeting

The Equity in Transportation Study covers Harris County, including the City of Houston, and focuses on the history, current status, and future equity of transportation investment by the County. The study will focus on all modes of transportation infrastructure. Find out what this means for Harris County and your community during the virtual meeting scheduled for December 8th, 2020, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Register and learn more about the Harris County Transportation Planning Series by visiting

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