The County Connection
Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

The upcoming November election will be one for the history books. On November 3rd, we will decide which direction we want our country, our state, and our local community to go. Regardless of who you want to vote for, here in Harris County, we’re doing everything we possibly can to make the voting part easy, tripling the number of early vote locations, establishing voting by mail and mega vote centers with partners like BBVA Stadium, NRG, and the Toyota Center, and more. But if you want to vote, you need to register first. Mark it on your calendar: Monday, October 5th, is the last day that you can register to vote in the 2020 election.
 
Registering to vote has never been easier. Visit Register2Vote.org to check on your registration status. If you’re not registered, Register2Vote will send you your printed, completed registration form and a pre-stamped and addressed envelope for you to send in. Remember, if you are mailing in your voter registration, it must be postmarked by October 5th for you to be eligible to vote in the November election. 
 
And if you are already registered, there’s still more you can do before election day. Consider signing up to be a poll worker or student election worker. Also, once registered and if you qualify for a mail-in ballot, the deadline (received not postmarked) to submit an application for a mail ballot to the County Clerk’s Office is October 23rd. Election Day is just around the corner — early voting begins October 13th and runs until October 30th. For more information on polling sites and voting by mail, visit the Harris County Clerk’s Office at HarrisVotes.com
 
We can do this — Let’s make Harris County heard with the largest turnout ever. 

Abrazos,
Lina Hidalgo

County News

Harris County’s COVID-19 Threat Level is Still at Red, Here’s Why

Earlier this week, Judge Hidalgo provided a video update on the current Harris County Threat Level. In this video, she describes the latest trends, what goes into the county’s decision making process to lower the threat level, and the urgency of our community staying on track. Click here to watch and read more about the county’s threat level system at readyharris.org.

County Investments in Flood Control Save Homes from Tropical Storm Beta

 
The hard work of the Harris County Flood Control District is paying off. Communities along Brays Bayou saw the benefits of the $480 million Project Brays improvements as up to 10 inches of heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Beta tested the limits of the bayou, but did not overtop its banks or cause any homes to flood.
 
“For years, Brays Bayou neighbors watched anxiously as one heavy rain event after another sent flood waters streaming over its banks and into their homes,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “But when the downpour came this week, Brays Bayou did its job and it held back the floodwaters. It offered a glimpse of what our entire region can do when we pull together to invest in smart flood control projects that protect homes and lives. We have much more work to do to protect this and other communities against future floods, but this experience shows we are far from powerless, and destructive flooding doesn’t have to be inevitable.” 
 
Project Brays is a partnership effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Harris County Flood Control District. The project has completed 21 miles of channel improvements, built 4 stormwater detention basins covering more than 800 acres in size, and replaced or modified 19 bridges to bring Project Brays to more than 85 percent completion to date. When completed in the next two years, Project Brays is expected to reduce the flooding risks for more than 15,000 structures in the watershed downstream of Beltway 8 and reduce the risk for many structures upstream of Beltway 8 as well.

Harris County Establishes COVID-19 Domestic Violence Assistance Fund

Across the nation, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in domestic violence and strained many services available to domestic violence survivors in Harris County. Currently, shelters for those seeking assistance are at capacity and experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19, as well as operating at lower availability due to social distancing and isolation needs. Agencies that provide lifesaving services serve as a vital lifeline for survivors of domestic violence during this pandemic, and it is the County’s duty to support them financially. In mid-September, Harris County Commissioners Court approved $2,178,550 to support survivors of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will establish a Harris County COVID-19 Domestic Violence Assistance program to help in providing an array of services including childcare, food, transportation, and housing.
 
“This pandemic has laid bare the struggle so many survivors of domestic violence and their caregivers face each and every day in our community,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “We cannot afford to let anyone in Harris County fall through the cracks during this pandemic, and that includes those who deserve protection, care, and support as a result of domestic violence. I want to thank everyone who continues to advocate on behalf of survivors including the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council for their work on this vital initiative.”
 
The Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (HCDVCC), an organization created to bring together community stakeholders to end domestic violence, will administer the program. More information on the application process and criteria will be available in the coming weeks.

Harris County Commissioners Court Approves Funding for COVID-19 Childcare Assistance Program

With schools having closed in March under the hovering threat of COVID-19, children and their parents have been hit particularly hard by the epidemic. On September 29, Harris County Commissioners Court approved $4,715,100 for a new COVID-19 Childcare Assistance Program that will provide funding for virtual learning, after school care, early childhood learning, and early childhood care. The funding will enable local non-profits the YMCA, Collaborative for Children, and the United Way to serve an estimated 4,375 children of essential workers in need of financial support for eight to twelve weeks. Stay tuned for more information on how to apply. 

Judge Hidalgo, Harris County Commissioners Court Declares September Child Cancer Awareness Month

Last month, Judge Hidalgo led an effort to pass a resolution recognizing September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. According to the National Cancer Institute, childhood cancers and associated treatments require unique research needs and funding. Each year, over 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer in the United States, with approximately 40,000 on active treatment at any given time. Additionally, the overall incidence of childhood cancers have increased by 24% over the past 40 years. 
 
As one of the leading causes of death in our county, we’ve all been touched in some way or another by cancer,” said Judge Hidalgo. But we must also recognize that not all cancers are the same, and that childhood cancer requires its own investment, research, and treatments. Let’s stand together this September to raise public awareness about this devastating disease and march toward saving young lives.”
 
The resolution acknowledges the need for increased awareness and funding for research and treatment of childhood cancer. To learn more about what you can do to help, visit the Faris Foundation at LetThereBeGOLD.org

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility to Reopen to Public with Safety Measures for COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit Harris County last spring, the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility was forced to shut down, forcing many responsible residents to stockpile hazardous waste such as pesticides, batteries, pool chemicals, and propane cylinders. These and other hazardous waste items can contaminate our landfills and leak into our groundwater when not disposed of properly. The facility, which shut down the third week of March, reopened to the public in mid-September with new COVID-19 safety measures and protocols for dropoff. 
 
To use this county service, residents and customers must now sign up for an appointment ahead of time and stay in their car during the drop-off, with limited contact from staff (similar to how curbside logistics would work at a grocery store). Facility employees will also be monitoring the number of residents served each day and using Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and hygiene procedures. 
 
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 list of acceptable materials for drop-off, click here.

Texas Department of Transportation Invites Residents to Help Inform the Gulf Freeway Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Study

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is conducting a study to identify issues and potential solutions for improving the Gulf Freeway from downtown to Beltway 8 South. Community ideas are key to this study and we would like to invite Harris County residents to take a few minutes to participate. The innovative survey feels more like playing a video game that asks survey-takers to pinpoint problem areas and prioritize possible fixes. You can provide your input by completing the survey here until October 11. 
 

Upcoming Events

Harris County Transportation Plan Community Meeting

Learn more about Harris County’s transportation planning, future projects, programs, policies, and advocacy for all of unincorporated Harris County through 2040 during an upcoming virtual meeting scheduled for Wednesday, October 7, 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.