September 1, 2023

The County Connection: Ringing in Year Three of ARPA Program Investments

The County Connection
Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

 July/August 2023

Judge Hidalgo visited the White House on July 19th to talk about ARPA investments.

When Harris County received nearly $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding in 2021, the county decided that the best way to serve residents with these funds was to invest in transformational programs, instead of using the money to plug budget holes. As Harris County approaches its third year of ARPA funding, the county has so far invested nearly $643 million ARPA dollars. The programs that the county has chosen to invest in have turned the region into a national leader on issues from reducing homelessness to maternal health to early childhood education. Some of the things Harris County has been able to accomplish with ARPA funding include:

  • Reducing homelessness by 20%
  • Investing in apprenticeship programs that will help create hundreds of jobs in high-growing, fast-paced industries like construction and IT
  • Increasing the number of slots available for high-quality child care by 10%
  • Tackling Harris County’s high maternal mortality rates by helping hundreds of mothers receive prenatal care and support through home visitation
  • Making county buildings and schools safer by establishing a comprehensive lead abatement program

Earlier this summer, Judge Hidalgo visited the White House to share success stories from ARPA programs in Harris County. Investing ARPA funds in big picture programs gives the county the potential to serve constituents for years to come. Thank you to the Biden Administration, the county’s federal partners and all the departments here in Harris County that have helped put these programs in motion. You can view a comprehensive ARPA report here.

County News

Commissioners Court Unanimously Approves Order of a 2023 Bond Election To Finance Upgrades to the Harris Health System

At one time or another, you or someone in your community  has received care at Harris Health System. Yet, Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Hospital and Ben Taub Hospital have not undergone significant upgrades or renovations since their initial construction over 30 years ago. Harris County’s population has nearly doubled during that time, and both hospitals are currently operating at or over capacity.

In August, Harris County Commissioners Court approved an order for a November 2023 bond election to finance upgrades to the Harris Health System. The $2.5 billion bond would help fund a Level 1-capable trauma center at LBJ Hospital, which provides the highest level of trauma care to critically ill or injured patients; increase capacity at Ben Taub Hospital by adding approximately 120 patient rooms; and create three new community clinics in high-need areas.

Over the next ten years, the bond is projected to have a minimal impact on the average homeowner with a cost of approximately $6/month. Learn more about the upcoming bond election by visiting, and visit before October 10th to register to vote.

Harris County to Invest $7.2 Million in Knowles-Rowland House Project

Harris County is leading the way on ending homelessness. Even in the middle of the pandemic, the county and the city, along with the Coalition for the Homeless and other nonprofit partners, have been able to reduce homelessness by almost 20%.

The county is working to reduce it even more. In June, Commissioners Court approved$7.2 million in American Rescue Plan funding for the Knowles-Rowland House Project, which will create 31 new permanent supportive housing units for people experiencing homelessness. The project will transform the existing gymnasium on the Bread of Life Campus into housing units and provide all residents with supportive services such as transportation so residents can go to job interviews, doctor appointments, and mental health counseling.

The more space provided, especially places that have the support and community that people experiencing homelessness need, the more people the county can help. While this is a proud step forward, there’s still more to do. As of last count, over 1,800 people in Harris County live in shelters. The county is making progress, but the fight to end homelessness is not done.

Funding Approved for TeleDeputy Unit to Speed Up Response to Emergency Calls

Judge Hidalgo addressed media at a 2022 Commissioners Court meeting.

In recent years, population growth and staffing challenges have contributed to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office receiving a much higher volume of emergency calls resulting in longer response times to the scene of the crime. However, not all of these emergency calls are actual emergencies requiring an officer to physically respond.

To help meet demand and free up officers needed for emergencies, Harris County Commissioners Court has approved $1.7 million to fund a new TeleDeputy program to allow officers to respond remotely to non-emergency calls, such as needing to file a police report after a car break-in or reporting an abandoned vehicle. The TeleDeputy program is expected to reduce response wait times from an average of over 14 minutes to less than 10 minutes. The new TeleDeputy Unit is another example of how Harris County is giving law enforcement the 21st-century tools they need to do their jobs most effectively, and ultimately better protect the community.

New Plan Will Tackle Pay Disparity in Harris County

Judge Hidalgo spoke during a Commissioners Court meeting on ​July 18th.

According to a study done in 2022, Harris County currently has significant pay disparities when it comes to both race and gender: female employees make an average of $7,000 less than their male counterparts. Black and Hispanic employees make an average salary of about $18,000 less than White and Asian employees. Harris County is one of the most diverse counties in the nation, and it should be leading the way when it comes to employee pay equity. In July, Commissioners Court approved recommendations to help ensure that county employees are not only paid equally, but that they’re getting paid what they deserve. Under this plan, the first positions that will be targeted are going to be positions below their salary range minimum and in grades 1-11, meaning the lowest-earning employees will benefit first.

New Harris PROSPERS Plan Maps Out Pathways to Success for Harris County Families

The unveiling of the new initiative Harris PROSPERS on August 10th.

Every person in Harris County deserves a stable foundation and a clear path to prosper, thrive, and build a better life for themselves and their families. Yet, according to recent data, half of Harris County residents can’t afford a $400 emergency, and one in five households earns less than $25,000 annually. That is why on August 10th Harris County unveiled Harris PROSPERS (Pathways to Realize Opportunity, Security, Potential, Equity, Resilience, and Safety), a plan to accomplish two goals: creating paths to jobs and opportunity and ensuring families have the basic building blocks to succeed. To learn more about Harris County’s commitment to prosperity for every family and the programs that encompass Harris PROSPERS, visit

Commissioners Court Approved Burn Ban for Unincorporated Harris County

Due to excessive heat and drought conditions, Commissioners Court approved a burn ban, on August 8th, at the recommendation of the Harris County Fire Marshal, for all unincorporated portions of the county. Under the burn ban, most outdoor burning is prohibited. Grilling and barbecuing, open ceremonial burning for religious purposes, and welding are still allowed under the ban. Violations of the ban are considered a Class C misdemeanor and can carry a fine of up to $500. The burn ban will be in effect for 90 days or until the Texas Forest Service (TFS) determines that Harris County is no longer experiencing a drought.

As of September 1, 83 percent of Texas counties were under a burn ban. In these drought conditions, things like sparks and cigarette butts can quickly catch fire. Please report any unattended fires to 911 immediately.

Commissioners Court Approved Additional Funding for VIPER Warrants Task Force

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a rise in open warrants for arrest in Harris County. To get more  criminals off the streets, the county created the VIPER Warrants Task Force to track down the most dangerous offenders posing a significant threat to the Harris County community. The evidence-based, data-driven program has already executed 1,100 warrants, exceeding the goal of 150 warrants per month. In July, Harris County Commissioners Court approved $3.5 million in additional funding to renew the program. With this funding for an additional 7,200 hours of overtime, the rate of warrants executed will increase by an additional 84 warrants changing the target goal to 234 warrants executed each month.

Harris County Breaks Ground on New Building for Hay Center

At the Hay Center Groundbreaking on June 16th.

Every year in the Houston area, more than 200 youth exit the foster care system when they reach adulthood or graduate high school. Nationwide, 20% of kids who age out of foster care become instantly homeless. Without traditional family support and community connections, many youth will face unstable housing and have a greater risk of homelessness.

The HAY Center, a program of Harris County Resources for Children and Adults, has provided comprehensive, wraparound services for these foster youth in Harris County since 2005, and has helped thousands of young people in Harris County get access to the education, employment, mentoring and health services they need. In June, Harris County broke ground on a new campus that will, for the first time, give the HAY Center the capacity to actually house youth with its 50 on-site apartment units. The new campus will also provide wraparound services including therapy, employment assistance, transportation, and more for 1,300 additional foster youth in the county. Construction is scheduled to be complete in Summer 2024.

Judge Hidalgo Honored With Mural Painted By Local Young Artist

Judge Hidalgo with Abby Guerrero at the mural unveiling on July 27th.

In July, Judge Hidalgo was honored with a mural entitled Free of Judgment, painted by 15-year-old community artist Abby Guerrero. Abby painted the piece over the span of 40 hours between February and May 2023. Costs of the mural supplies—approximately $1,000—and wall space were entirely crowdfunded.

While she worked on the mural mostly independently, Abby did so under the mentorship of beloved Houston artist Alex “Donkeeboy” Roman Jr., her art teacher over the past few years. Many elements in the mural honor the judge: The top reads “18,183,” the exact number of votes the judge won the 2022 election by; Star Wars-style lettering was used because of her love for the iconic movie series; and her favorite color, purple. Judge Hidalgo was touched and inspired that Abby chose to honor her leadership and express herself in such a larger-than-life way.  You can view the mural at 2647 Crawford Street.

Historical Marker Unveiling of Former Congressman Mickey Leland

  At the marker unveiling on August 19th.

Judge Hidalgo’s staff joined the Harris County Historical Commission, the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs and community leaders to unveil an official Texas historical marker for the late Congressman Mickey Leland III at Texas Southern University earlier this month. The marker honors Congressman Leland’s legacy and his long history of public service.

Congressman Leland grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward and attended Texas Southern University, where he became a vocal champion for civil rights. He served six years in the state legislature and then went on to serve in Congress for twelve years. During his time in Congress, he was a major advocate for health care rights for low-income people. He helped pass legislation to alleviate food insecurity by providing fresh food for at-risk families and comprehensive services to people experiencing homelessness. After many years of public service, Congressman Leland tragically passed away in 1989 during a plane crash on his way to a federal relief mission in Ethiopia.

India’s 77th Independence Day

India Independence Day on August 15th.

Harris County celebrated India’s 77th Independence Day! Judge Hidalgo’s staff joined community organization Gujarati Samaj and local leaders to honor the holiday, welcome the new Consul General of India and celebrate diversity and progress in our community earlier this month.

Upcoming Events

Register to Vote By October 10th

Early Voting begins on October 23rd! Are you registered to vote? to register to vote, update your address, and find polling locations! The deadline to register to vote is October 10th.

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.

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.