The County Connection

Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

March 2021

 We are Texans, and the concept of freedom is an essential piece of our identity. We all want the freedom to go out to eat and to socialize, the freedom for our economy and our schools to open without the fear of getting deathly ill, the freedom to use amazing science and vaccine developments to our full advantage. But taking away critical public health interventions that we know are working in the name of personal freedom won’t make our community safer, nor will it hasten our return to normalcy. The state’s decision on Tuesday to end the statewide mask mandate and increase business capacity to 100% is a threat to all of the sacrifices and progress we’ve made, as well as to everyone who has not yet received a vaccine. At best, Tuesday’s decision is wishful thinking. At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid.
Every time COVID-19 public health measures have been pulled back, we’ve seen a spike in hospitalizations. If we start the climb now, we’d be starting from the highest starting point ever when it comes to our hospital population, an unacceptable and dangerous proposition. Even more troubling is the revelation that Houston has the unfortunate distinction of being the only city recording every major strain of COVID-19. Our positivity rate is still sky high and moving up, not down — we’re now at 13% positivity. We’re still seeing hundreds of new cases a day. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, we’re finally inching closer to the finish line of this deadly, destructive pandemic — now is not the time to reverse the gains we’ve worked so hard to achieve. We’re able to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel now because of the common sense steps we’ve taken to prevent the spread of this virus, like wearing masks. We can’t take one step forward just to take two steps back. 
History will remember those who took part in the unified effort to save lives in our community and pull us through this awful pandemic. It will also remember those who undermined and prolonged this crisis in the name of scoring political points with their base. Our Harris County community is smart — we can see through the politics of this. I know we will keep at it and continue to be good neighbors, good citizens, and do the right thing, including wearing masks. Let’s also reward those that do the same. Shop at businesses still requiring masks and keeping capacity low to protect their employees and their patrons. 
We’ve been through so much, but we are so close. Keep holding on. Our success at beating this virus is all up to us now. 
 Lina Hidalgo

County News

 NRG Park Vaccination Center Opens, Estimated to Vaccinate 126,000 Residents

A new federally supported, state managed, and locally-run community vaccination center at NRG Park began carrying out vaccinations for eligible members of the public on Wednesday, February 24. To watch a video with information on the site, click here. The NRG vaccination center is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and run with support from the Department of Defense and the Texas Department of Emergency Management. Our site will serve 6,000 people per day, seven days per week for three weeks before transitioning to second doses for three weeks to fully vaccinate a total of 126,000 people. FEMA through reimbursements will be covering 100% of the cost. 
“This is a community that stares down hurricanes, and we don’t blink,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “The hope of getting back to normalcy is something we all cling to as the months drag on with COVID, and at the heart of that possibility of normalcy is one thing, and that is vaccines. This site marks the biggest effort to date to get our community vaccinated.”
The center is vaccinating people by pulling from the Harris County and City of Houston vaccination waitlists. For selection from the waitlist, the city and county each identified the ten and 25 hardest hit zip codes, defined by having the highest incidence of the virus combined with the highest social vulnerability index. The social vulnerability index identifies zip codes that lack adequate healthcare access. The individuals on the waitlist who come from both the city and county’s top ten zip codes will be prioritized first along with older individuals. Next, individuals from the rest of the 25 zip codes will qualify to receive the vaccine before the center begins pulling from the broader waitlist. Within these specifications, Harris County will select individuals at random so as to not give special advantage to people with better internet access or political connections.

 To register for the county waitlist, visit the vaccination link on or call 832-927-8787. To register for the City of Houston waitlist, people age 65 and older can visit or call the City of Houston’s Area Agency on Aging at 832-393-4301.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Establish Greater Houston 2021 Winter Storm Relief Fund 

 Immediately following the devastating Winter Storm Uri, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo established the Greater Houston 2021 Winter Storm Relief Fund to assist our region’s most vulnerable neighbors in their recovery. As of March 1st, the fund has raised $7.1 million. $1.65 million in emergency grants are already being distributed to non-profit organizations that support vulnerable families and individuals in critical need of home repairs due to busted pipes, water damage, and prolonged power loss during the recent freezing temperatures. 
“Here in Harris County when we get knocked down we get back up, dust ourselves off and get to work right away to help our neighbors. I’m pleased to partner with Mayor Turner, the Greater Houston Community Foundation, and the United Way to provide another source of support for our community,” said Judge Hidalgo. “Our region has endured multiple, concurrent disasters – from Harvey to Imelda to COVID, and now a winter weather disaster. So many families were already experiencing hardship before this disaster blindsided us. This fund will lean on groups with deep experience providing recovery support to help as many people as we can, so if you’re in a position to donate, please do.”
From the initial grant round, $1.5 million is being invested in the Disaster Home Repair
Collaborative, which includes the following home repair partners: Avenue, Fifth Ward
CRC, Houston Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together Houston and Tejano Center
for Community Concerns. The balance of the emergency grant round, $150,000, is allocated to Connective, a disaster recovery and preparedness system for the Texas Gulf Coast Region to establish a common application portal to facilitate low-barrier access to home repair services.
The Greater Houston Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Houston are jointly overseeing and administering the grant distribution process with the help of a grants committee. The Foundation and United Way are accepting donations online at Those impacted by the storm and needing immediate help can text HoustonFreeze to 898211 (TXT211 on iPhone). Individuals will be texted back with eligibility and application guidelines. Impacted families are also encouraged to apply to FEMA now at and complete a nonprofit-led Community Needs Assessment to communicate their needs at

Harris County to Prosecute Price Gougers Following Winter Storm 

 In a time of disaster and emergency, the last thing you and your family should be worried about is getting taken advantage of by price gougers. After the tremendous amount of damage caused by the arctic freeze last month and the resulting price gouging of goods and services, Harris County is taking these criminals to task. The Harris County Price Gouging Task Force has been hard at work tracking complaints made to the Harris County Attorney’s Office Price Gouging Hotline and opening investigations of companies that may have overcharged or adjusted prices on their services to take advantage of community members in their time of recovery. On March 1st, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court granted the County Attorney’s Office the authority to file appropriate lawsuits to prosecute offenders to the full extent of the law. 

If you believe you have been a victim of price gouging, please visit this webpage or call 346-354-7459. For tips to avoid being scammed, watch this video. Lone Star Legal Aid provides free legal help to disaster survivors who qualify. You can apply for free legal help by calling 1-800-733-8394 or online at


Harris County Releases Report Finding Misdemeanor Bail Reform Does Not Contribute to an Increase in Violent Crime


In 2019, Harris County reformed its unconstitutional bail practices for misdemeanor defendants following a lawsuit challenging cash bail. Previously, decisions about who had to stay in jail were made based on how much money defendants had rather than their threat to the community. Reforms eliminated cash bail requirements for minor offenses that might have kept defendants in jail for weeks or even months. Based on a request made by Commissioners Court, the Harris County Justice Administration Department (JAD)’s policy team began researching crime data to observe how bail reform may be affecting crime patterns within Harris County. The report also describes the Justice Administration Department’s approach to addressing violence and supporting crime survivors. 

Major findings include:

  • Across the United States in 2020, there was an increase over 2019 levels in homicides, aggravated assaults, and gun violence. Some forms of violent crime are also increasing in Harris County. 
  • Violent crime rose during 2020 in large metro areas across the United States. Those increases occurred in areas that implemented bail reform and those that did not. 
  • Month-by-month analysis shows that monthly rates of unemployment and COVID cases are more closely correlated with increases in murders the next month. Reduced use of cash bail was actually associated with reduced murders the next month, suggesting that bail reform protected public safety. 
The report concludes that other policy initiatives—not renewed reliance on cash bail—will be required to halt the increase in violence. Click here to view the memo and PowerPoint.

Harris County Budget Management Department Establishes Diversity and Inclusion Policy for Hiring of Third-party Firms

 On March 1st, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved a Diversity and Inclusion Policy for the Harris County Budget Management Department to use when choosing third-party financial advisory firms, underwriters, and legal services for its debt management activities. For a small or emerging Minority- and Women- Owned Business Enterprise Program (MWBE) firm, working with a Harris County financing is not only an economic gain but it also exposes the firm to bigger and more established players in the capital markets. Participating in a County financing also provides important experience that can help the firm compete for a more substantial role in future financings.

Upcoming Events


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.


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.