The County Connection
Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

April 2021

Last week, I followed my own advice and got vaccinated! I want to thank every frontline health worker and Harris County Public Health employee who has been working to save lives for the past year. Now more than ever we have reason to be hopeful and proud of the work we’re doing together to beat the coronavirus. More than 1 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Harris County. Over 750,000 people have signed up for our waitlist and our call center has fielded more than half a million calls and registered over 27,000 people by phone. Our Health Department is vaccinating a larger proportion of vulnerable groups compared to others. This is what progress looks like.
But as County Judge it’s my job to look beyond the immediate challenges of limited supply of vaccines and toward our next obstacle. If you look around the corner you’ll see evidence that there is a very large proportion of our community that remains wary of getting vaccinated. One national survey shows that up to 40% of Texans say they will either not get a COVID-19 vaccine or are undecided on whether or not to do so. So here’s the bottom line — Harris County will never reach herd immunity if up to 40% of our residents refuse to get vaccinated. Vaccine hesitancy is a clear and present danger to our collective health and our ability to pull through this crisis. We need to do more than just offer vaccines and hope folks will show up to receive it.
That’s why we launched the Stay Smart, Do Your Part media campaign to reach folks where they are through ads and by going door-to-door in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. It’s why we’ve built a registration process that builds equity by prioritizing vulnerable communities and targeting high risk zip codes. We’ve provided vaccines at over 77 locations across our County, including communities of faith, homeless shelters, and assisted living facilities. We are providing transportation support for those who need it. But we need everyone to do more. Clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies must make sure they’re doing outreach in underserved communities. Vaccine providers must make registration easier for elderly folks and working families and drop any ID requirements that may discourage undocumented or uninsured residents from getting a vaccine. As for our residents, the gates are now open for everyone 16 and over. If you can drive a car, you can and should get a vaccine. Please visit or call 832-927-8787 to sign up for our waitlist now. If you already received your vaccine, help us spread the word to your network and community!
This is on all of us — the sooner we are vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to doing the things we love. We’ve waited so long for this pandemic to end so that we can return to normal. The remedy is here, we just have to take it.
Go get vaccinated!
Lina Hidalgo

County News

Harris County Files Lawsuit to Stop TXDOT I-45 Rebuild

For too long, our region’s transportation policy has been stuck in the 50’s — we’ve gotten by by simply building more lanes and pouring more concrete. This resistance to change and modernization has created more flooding problems, exacerbated instead of alleviated traffic issues, and built bigger and wider highways rather than the comprehensive public transportation system we so desperately need, setting us behind compared to other metro areas around the world. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court authorized the County Attorney’s Office to file a lawsuit against the Texas  Department  of Transportation (TXDOT)’s proposed rebuild plan for I-45, which would displace a total of 1079 housing units and 344 businesses, and roughly 3,000 people and thousands of employees. It would heighten pollution levels at schools nearby, and it would lead to more traffic, not less. This level of displacement and the disproportionate impact on disadvantaged communities far exceeds other construction projects in Houston, such as the expansions of I-10 West or 290, and even other highway construction around the country. Most importantly, Harris County and the City of Houston, along with affected communities, have developed a realistic and forward-thinking alternative design that will allow us to have a highway that looks to the future and helps keep our region competitive. To watch a video detailing the top 5 reasons why the current TX-DOT I-45 rebuild plan is bad for Harris County, click here.
“Our region’s complex transportation challenges require innovation and creative thinking,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “So far, TxDOT’s vision for I-45 lacks both. Instead, this proposal relies on an antiquated approach that continues the painful legacy of freeway expansions that unnecessarily harm families and businesses and ultimately fail to improve our quality of life. Throwing more concrete at this problem is not going to solve it. We are calling on TxDOT to innovate and lead, rather than repeating the same flawed approach that put us in this situation.”
The lawsuit aims to change the direction of this project to ensure that Harris County residents get a rebuild that fully benefits our community. We can build a highway that respects communities and includes within it investments and space for significant transit options. It’s time to stop putting cars before people.

Proposed State Legislation SB7 a Direct Threat to Voting Access for Harris County Residents

During the historic 2020 presidential election, Harris County instituted various innovative and groundbreaking methods to ensure that every eligible resident had the ability to exercise their constitutional rights to vote, such as tripling the number of Early Vote locations, establishing drive-thru voting, and expanding polling hours, including a one day 24-hour voting location. We had the highest turnout in a generation – almost 70% of registered voters voted. Now these advances in equity and access are under direct attack by proposed state legislation SB7 and related bills.
“The proposed voting restrictions in SB7 are political theater that sadly harms voters of both parties,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Policies grounded in the Big Lie – the falsehood that mass voter fraud exists – are wrong and only harm our democracy. I’m saddened to see any legislative proposal designed to limit voting hours or access to the ballot box. Increasing access to voting shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
SB7 would restrict information on how to vote by mail, preventing the County from sending voters mail-in ballot applications. SB7 would also limit voting hours and would completely stop 24-hour voting, shutting out thousands of voters such as first responders and medical workers who work nontraditional hours. It would eliminate drive-through voting, encourage harassment of voters inside polling locations by allowing individuals to approach and record voters inside the polling location, and would lead to long lines by dictating Harris County’s distribution of voting machines.
We call on leaders, companies, and individuals to make their voice heard against bills that create obstacles to voting, under the guise of voter fraud, of which there is no substantial evidence.

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

Children are the most vulnerable members of our community and we must collectively commit to protect them. This month, the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC), Harris County’s only Child Advocacy Center, is honoring Child Abuse Awareness Month by encouraging all Harris County residents to be vigilant of our children’s safety and well-being. The CAC will be hosting the free virtual workshop series Are Your Children Safe? addressing abuse prevention, family supports, mental health, and internet safety, intended for all members of the public. A full list of resources and free training available to the public are available on the CAC’s website here. If you ever suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you can contact the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1(800) 252 – 5400 or report online at A list of signs of abuse and neglect is located here.

Healthy Food Financing Initiative Awards $550K in Funding to Six Local Programs

On March 9th, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court furthered the work of the County’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative by issuing grants to six local organizations working to further access to healthy foods and nutrition for Harris County residents. The recipients are:
  • Hope Clinic: Offers an innovative way to increase access to healthy food by teaching restaurateurs how to prepare healthy food to be included in their menu options. HOPE Clinic also has the ability to reach immigrant communities that would not otherwise be engaged.
  • Houston Food Bank: Funding will help existing and potential partners build capacity to make more healthy food available to residents. It will also help with increasing SNAP participation.
  • Little Red Box, LLC: By making healthy food options available for pickup in individual neighborhoods, Little Red Box offers a retail solution for the problem of healthy food access in the Second Ward. This process also includes online and in-person educational sessions focused on nutrition, cooking demonstrations and cooking classes.
  • Finca Tres Robles: Outlet for fresh and local produce in the East End. Includes a new store that has a commercial kitchen, offices, and programming space.
  • The Common Market Texas: Funding will allow Common Market to provide healthy food to retailers at a 25% discount, thus increasing availability of fresh healthy food at an affordable price.
  • Urban Harvest: Funding will allow Urban Harvest to launch a mobile market, offering healthy food options in all four Harris County precincts.
The Healthy Food Financing Initiative was established in December 2019 with the goal of mitigating the effects of food deserts and ensuring access to nutritious food for all Harris County residents.

Houston Harris County Winter Storm Relief Fund Distributes $7.95 Million in Grants to Area Nonprofits Serving Winter Storm Victims

The Houston Harris County Winter Storm Relief Fund has invested a total of $7.95 million in area nonprofits serving the most vulnerable families and individuals. These grants will support vulnerable neighbors recovering from the winter storm through emergency financial assistance, home repairs and unmet needs assistance. More than $15 million in donations has been pledged to the fund by generous Houston companies and individuals.
“The February freeze dealt a major setback to many families that were already struggling to maintain their households during what was already the most challenging year we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “I am grateful to those who have given so generously to help our neighbors recover, and I encourage those who are in a position to help to pitch in what they can. To our struggling families: know that help is on the way and you are not alone. In Harris County, we always pull together to lift those in need.”
Given the urgent need for assistance, fund organizers are appealing to those who can donate to do so by April 15, 2021 in order to quickly get the remaining funds to those in need. To donate or to find out how to apply for assistance, visit For more winter recovery resources, visit

Harris County Ends Rollover Funding Policy for Departments, Allowing for Greater Transparency and Efficiency

Harris County funding exists to serve the needs of residents and taxpayers. To ensure that we are all getting the biggest bang for our buck, leftover dollars should be re-evaluated and redistributed every fiscal year to where they are most needed. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court voted to end the County’s long-standing policy of “rollover” budgeting for most general fund departments. Previously, if a department did not spend the entirety of its budget, remaining funds were automatically added to that same department’s budget for the following year. There was no cap on the amount that could be rolled over, no deadline by when the rollover budget had to be spent, and no written guidance or policy on rollover’s use. This policy effectively pre-committed unspent funds for future years without regard to the county’s needs and priorities at that time. Beginning with this fiscal year 2021-2022, unspent funds from the prior fiscal year will not automatically be added to a department’s budget, thereby freeing up funds for where they are most needed and allowing for greater transparency in where the County’s money is budgeted.

Upcoming Events

ODonnell Consent Decree Public Meeting

On Wednesday, April 28, 2020, the Justice Administration Department (JAD) will host the second ODonnell Consent Decree Public Meeting virtually. The conversation will include a presentation of updates and goals regarding the ODonnell Consent Decree and bail reform in Harris County. The event will also give a platform for the virtual audience to interact through a Q&A with the Defendants, Plaintiffs Attorney, and Monitor.
The Defendants and Monitor will present updates on:
  • Consent Decree milestones and operational changes completed to date.
  • Partnerships with research and technical assistance organizations.
  • Ongoing changes and some anticipated timelines for completion.
  • Opportunities for community input and participation.
ODonnell Public Meetings will occur every six months. The next ODonnell Public Meeting will be hosted on April 28th, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. To register, please use the link here.

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. Appointments are available each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and during the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Learn what items are accepted and make an appointment here.