The County Connection
Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

January 2022
A new year is a time for new beginnings, and I know we are all ready to start fresh. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 epidemic has not slowed down over the holidays. With the emergence of the Omicron strain fueling the fire, a new wave of infections are once again raising our numbers. Hospitalizations are slowly rising and approaching problematic levels, infections are spreading rapidly across our County, and this week our numbers have pushed our threat level back to red. The possible exposures from travel, holiday celebrations, and gatherings on top of the return of children to school this week could trigger a very difficult month ahead in terms of hospitalizations and the strain on our medical system. It is clear that we will be living with this virus indefinitely.
But here in Harris County we are not giving in – we have more tools available and more knowledge on this virus than at any previous point during this pandemic. And we know that vaccinations are the best protection for you and your family against this virus. If there has ever been a wake up call to get vaccinated and get your booster, that time is now. You can find all the information you need on how and where to get vaccinated and your booster at
Another powerful tool we have to combat this latest wave is testing. Our public health sites continue to have plenty of PCR test capacity across the county and I want to encourage anyone who needs to get tested to visit one of these sites. Rapid tests that are available over the counter for home use are  also helpful, particularly when it comes to giving parents and schools peace of mind on whether or not students and staff are clear to be teaching and learning. Last week, Commissioners Court approved additional funding for 55,000 test kits which we will be distributing to schools and health clinics that serve the low income communities that need them most.
Also this week, a state court ruled that our local health officials do have the authority to put reasonable measures such as mask requirements in place to protect our community from COVID-19, something we have been fighting for the entirety of the pandemic. While this ruling will likely be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, wearing a mask right now is simply the right thing to do. Schools and businesses are in the right to enforce mask requirements and policies. So please, put the masks back on when you are in public, regardless of your vaccination status.
In this new year, our fight is still not over. But we have more reasons than ever to be hopeful that the end of COVID-19 as a major threat to our community is near. Here’s wishing everyone a safe and healthy 2022.
Lina Hidalgo

County News

Harris County Invests $35 Million in Housing Complex for Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care

For more than 200 young people in Harris County each year who age out of foster care, the transition to independent adulthood can go one of two ways – they can find safe and stable housing while pursuing education or meaningful work, or they can find themselves alone, at risk of becoming homeless, trafficked, or swept up in the criminal justice system.
Last month, Harris County Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved a $35M project to create The HAY Center Campus, which will provide housing and wraparound services for foster youth between the ages of 18 and 24. Since 2005, Harris County’s HAY Center, a public-private partnership program of Harris County Resources for Children and Adults, has provided stable housing and wraparound services for these young adults. This new campus will be the first of its kind in Texas, with a 41,000 square foot residential building, 50 apartment units with a full kitchen, washer and dryer, community space, gym, business center and private study rooms. Learn more about the Hay Center at

Harris County Joins “Ban the Box” Movement to Remove Criminal History Disclosures on County Employment Applications

For too long, Harris County has allowed discrimination against employment applicants with criminal or arrest records by requiring job applicants to declare their criminal history at the start of their employment applications. Yet, to enhance public safety, we must be willing to give those who are reentering society a fair chance to achieve gainful employment, support their families, and participate in the communities they serve. By being required to check a box stating they have been previously convicted of a criminal offense, many of these folks are taken out (or take themselves out) of the County’s application pool before they have a chance to prove themselves, a practice that is unfair and counterproductive to building a safer county.
This week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Commissioners Court voted to join 37 states and more than 150 cities and counties across America in removing questions about an applicant’s criminal history from county employment applications. This effort, nicknamed “Ban the Box,” will prohibit Harris County from asking about a person’s arrest or conviction record before determining if they are otherwise qualified for a position, which means that questions about a candidate’s past history will not automatically disqualify them from getting a job. By giving people a second chance to live productively and honestly, we are making Harris County a more inclusive and safer place to live.

New County Policy Database to Make Information More Accessible to Public

If you have ever tried to search for a Harris County policy or order, you are likely aware of how difficult this process can be. Currently, Harris County policies and court orders are not documented in any one place for County staff and the public alike. As a result, the public must frequently submit Public Information Act requests for information on policies and orders. Meanwhile, to determine if a given policy and related Commissioners Court order exists and where they are found, County staff must employ time-consuming strategies, including telephone calls and internet searches, with no guarantee of finding the information they need.
To correct these frustrating issues, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court last month approved a plan from the County Attorney’s Office to develop a comprehensive and searchable database of County policies and court orders. This new database will improve transparency and efficiency in finding information on Harris County Government, and should be up and running within the next 75 days for public and employee use.

Only African-American Owned Bank in Texas Now Authorized for Harris County Funding

Harris County is working hard to level the playing field for Minority/Women-owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs) that are qualified yet often overlooked in County contracting and business. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court was proud to make Unity National Bank, the only African-American owned bank in Texas and one of a very few African American-owned banks in the United States, an authorized bank for Harris County investment funds. Until now, the Harris County banking process did not have any M/WBE participation.

Commissioner’s Court Approves Funding for Temporary Hires to Assist with Court Evidence Processing

Without all evidence for a criminal court case, including 9-1-1 audio, a significant number of felony and misdemeanor cases have their court dates reset. This results in wasted time and financial resources for the District Attorney’s Office and Courts, further prolongs stays in jail for defendants, and delays justice for victims.
In another move to reduce Harris County’s court case backlog, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court last month approved $234,000 in additional funding for the Sheriff’s Office to hire seven temporary positions to accelerate processing of the 9-1-1 audio requests backlog. As of December 2021, there were approximately 10,000 9-1-1 audio requests in the backlog, with an average of 1,800 new requests per month, while an average of 1,100 requests are able to be processed on a monthly basis. The new hires will help to process these requests more quickly, helping to clear the backlog of court cases. This is just one more piece of a slew of initiatives and funding to reduce the criminal justice backlog in Harris County, such as hiring more judges, expanding jury operations, and allocating millions for overtime and equipment to speed court cases along.

George Floyd Sculpture​​ Donated to Tom Bass Regional Park

George Floyd’s tragic death sparked a worldwide movement against police violence in communities of color. In Harris County, we know that the Houston native is not only a symbol, he was a son, father, neighbor, and friend. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court accepted a donation from the Kay Davis In the Community (KDITC) Foundation of a life-size, bronze sculpture of George Floyd to be placed at Tom Bass Regional Park. The sculpture is being designed and created by Texas-based Sculptress Adrienne Rison-Isom and is entitled “A Conversation with George.” We look forward to visiting the statue in his remembrance.

Harris County Approves New Staff to Oversee Affordable Housing

A home is a springboard to success in all other facets of American life, yet decent affordable housing is out of reach for many of our residents. This week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court approved the creation of five new positions housed under the Community Services Department that will work on expanding affordable housing. The positions include an Assistant Director and four Program Managers and will be funded using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The positions will be charged with overseeing multifamily and single family new housing supply and preservation, assistance for homeowners, and legal aid and housing counseling.

Harris County Approves New Policy To Further Transparency in County Government

To ensure inclusiveness and transparency in County government, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Commissioners Court have approved a new transparency policy. The policy outlines Harris County’s transparent data goals, which include making County data (such as department program datasets of dollars spent on a particular project) open to the public as a standard practice, and creating a public data portal to house data from every County department. The Open Data Policy also provides descriptions of roles and responsibilities, guidelines for reporting, a phased timeline for the policy’s implementation, and more. This policy is another step forward in Harris County’s commitment to transparent government.

Phase II of Harris County Jail Tech Infrastructure Plan to Install Additional Surveillance Cameras

Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved nearly $24 million dollars to add thousands of new cameras and additional tech infrastructure to Harris County Jail facilities located at 1200 Baker Street, 701 San Jacinto Street, and 1201 Commerce Street. Phase II of the Detention Control System Upgrade Project will upgrade cameras and camera equipment at the jail and will continue the ongoing work of Phase I of installing a total of almost 2000 new cameras and 145 new viewing stations, and making significant upgrades to the network architecture, including new flooring, paint, countertops, and cabinets.

January 9th is Law Enforcement Appreciation Day

On January 9th, Harris County celebrates the brave law enforcement officers who protect our community. Harris County employs thousands of men and women who put their lives on the line every day, and on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, we honor their bravery and sacrifice. Thank you to all of Harris County’s Law Enforcement professionals.

January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Each year on January 11th we celebrate National Human Trafficking Awareness Day to shine a light on human trafficking, which affects so many yet often goes unseen and unnoticed. According to Crime Stoppers and United Against Human Trafficking, there are nearly 80,000 sex trafficking victims in Texas under the age of 18. The United States Department of Homeland Security promotes National Human Trafficking Awareness Day through their #WearBlueDay campaign, encouraging all to wear blue to bring awareness to these horrible crimes.

Upcoming Events

Harris County Vender Diversity Team M/WBE Informational Session

Join the Harris County’s Department of Economic Equity and Opportunity to learn about the County’s Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Program on January 26th at 2  p.m. Staff will be available to assist contractors and subcontractors navigate the M/WBE program and the county’s procurement process. Please register at Email any questions to [email protected].

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.