Protecting Workers & Families

County Judge Lina Hidalgo is taking action to make Harris County a better place to live and work for everyone by fighting for fair pay and treatment on the job for the most vulnerable workers contributing to our economy, and ensuring that immigrant families looking for a better life are treated with dignity and respect.

Key Accomplishments

  • Raised the County minimum wage to $15 an hour for employees and certain construction contract workers. The County is establishing criteria for evaluating safety records for workers when considering awards for construction contracts.
  • Requiring those who do business with the County to support and protect workers. when considering awards for construction contracts.
  • Established an Immigrant Legal Services fund to inject fairness into our judicial system by providing immigrant families who cannot afford a lawyer with representation and legal services to ensure they are better prepared to navigate U.S. law and avoid deportation when warranted.
  • Stood up against the Trump administration’s effort to instill fear in our immigrant communities. Judge Hidalgo has worked to fight against family separation policies, planned immigration raids in the County, and the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Additionally, the County filed a successful amicus brief against the Federal Government’s proposed “public charge rule” designed to threaten safety net services for immigrants and which would also overburden our county safety net systems.
  • Implemented family-friendly workplace policies proven to boost productivity and job satisfaction for all Harris County employees. Policies include up to 12 weeks paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers, additional sick leave to care for ill children, lactation rooms in county buildings, and resources for finding and selecting childcare.
  • Requiring those who do business with the County to support and protect workers. The County is establishing criteria for evaluating safety records for workers when considering awards for construction contracts.
  • Established an initiative to provide Harris County’s contractors with free OSHA training and certification.
  • Increased property tax exemptions for seniors and those with disabilities, expanding financial relief for more residents with limited or fixed incomes.
  • Tightened oversight of boarding houses to protect vulnerable seniors and persons with disabilities. Regulations now allow Harris County to oversee permits requiring background checks for owners, operators, and volunteers, housing standards, fire/kitchen inspections and more.
  • Established the Harris County Healthy Food Financing Initiative to mitigate the effects of food deserts and ensure access to nutritious food for all Harris County residents. To date, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative has awarded six local organizations working to further access to healthy foods and nutrition a total of $550k in funding.
  • Created the Healthy Minds, Healthy Communities initiative to engage and collaborate with local leaders in vulnerable communities to provide mental health programming, skill development, training, and outreach.
  • Created the African American Cultural Heritage Commission to advise the county on how to protect and celebrate African American history and culture in Harris County.
  • Created the Women’s Commission to serve as an advisory board to Commissioners Court regarding matters concerning gender disparities in health and economic outcomes for the residents of Harris County.
  • Adopted guidelines to incorporate equity across all departments. The guidelines commit the Office of County Administration to deliver key initiatives to implement equity and outline strategies and opportunities for county departments to advance equity.
  • Established the Essential Workers Board to advise Harris County on worker protections and interests, the first of its kind in the nation. The board gives a voice to essential workers in shaping County policy and will focus on protecting communities, workers and businesses during public health emergencies; supporting worker-led, equitable, and cooperative solutions to improving worker’s protections on the job; and promoting safe and healthy workplaces across Harris County.
    • Created a stipend for board members to participate and eliminate barriers for participation.
  • Launched ACCESS Harris County Program, which ensures that County departments are working together to coordinate care and eliminate any gaps in services for our most vulnerable residents participating in County programs.
  • Hired five new positions to oversee affordable housing. The positions will be charged with overseeing multifamily and single family new housing supply and preservation, assistance for homeowners, legal aid and housing counseling.
  • Launched lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad Property for contamination in the 5th Ward’s Kashmere Gardens neighborhood. The Texas State Department of Health published a study which determined that residents in the same neighborhood have been diagnosed at higher-than-normal rates of lung, esophagus, and larynx cancers, which are all consistent with the chemical contaminant polluting the railroad property.
  • Approved a resolution in support of the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) at the State and Federal levels. CROWN aims to help eliminate discrimination based on hair texture and styles. Harris County is currently working to align its personnel policies with the CROWN Act to ensure that we have a respectful and open workplace for natural hair.
  • Approved Resolution to Urge Medicaid Expansion in Texas to individuals who don’t qualify for either Medicaid or Obamacare. About 1.4 million more Texans would become eligible for Medicaid coverage if the state were to expand its program, and about 75% of them would be people of color.
  • Created a Survivor Services fund to help immigrant survivors of crime receive the legal and social supports they need to report crimes and collaborate with law enforcement, bolstering safety for immigrants and all Harris County residents.
  • Established $20 million Lead Abatement and Prevention Program that will cover lead hazard abatement, blood level testing, and related efforts with the goal of 800 units abated and 20,000 tests conducted over four years. Harris County Public Health currently tests 1,500 children annually for elevated blood-lead levels and tests and renovates about 60 homes and child-occupied structures, such as daycares, annually.
  • Invested $35 million in a housing complex for youth transitioning out of foster care, which will provide housing and wraparound services for foster youth between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • Reduced homelessness by 21% from January 2020 to 2022 by providing safe and stable housing for 1,000 people experiencing homelessness at the height of the pandemic.
  • Established $14.3 million Behavioral and Mental Health Program to increase the quantity of trained mental health providers so they are better able to retain and hire more trained staff. The initiative will also recruit more high school and college students into the mental health profession, and will help connect residents with mental health and substance abuse resources that will aid in their recovery.
  • Invested $7.5 million to fight food insecurity in Harris County. This amount is in addition to the $15.8 million investment we made at the start of the pandemic and will help to continue our work to bring quality, affordable foods to key areas in Harris County with high rates of food insecurity, called food deserts. The County will partner with the Houston Food Bank, Small Places, The Common Market Texas, and Urban Harvest Inc. to provide programming that includes developing small urban farms and community gardens, distributing fresh, local foods, and providing nutritional programming.
  • Proactively approved a resolution supporting the federal Respect for Marriage Act, a piece of potential legislation that would be crucial for guaranteeing federal protection for same sex couples. The federal bill would provide statutory authority to same-sex and interracial marriages in anticipation of other regressive civil rights rulings under the current Supreme Court.
  • Implemented the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Energy Program, an emergency utility assistance program, with no cost to the County, that will provide up to $700 in electric bill assistance for some customers.
  • Donated old and out-of-service ballistic body armor equipment to Ukrainian troops. Harris County supports the sovereignty of the nation of Ukraine and their fight for peace.
  • Expanded Employ2Empower Workforce program to employ 160 persons experiencing homelessness living in encampments and provide access to wrap-around service support.
  • After a draft opinion was leaked that outlined that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade, Harris County passed a resolution calling on Congress to take immediate action to protect and codify the rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade in the United States and affirming that Harris County stood in opposition to the draft opinion.
  • After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Harris County Commissioners Court took three immediate actions:
    • Judge Hidalgo directed Harris County to identify and recommend ways to promote and expand access to affordable and no cost contraception, sexual education, and family planning, as well as identify if there are ways for the County to promote safe abortions under current laws and regulations.
    • Judge Hidalgo also directed Harris County to identify and recommend proactive legislative efforts Commissioners Court could pursue to mitigate the impacts of Texas’s impending near total abortion ban, such as promoting the expansion of women's access to safe, reliable, and affordable contraceptive options and family planning services.
    • Harris County Commissioners Court passed a resolution promoting the expansion of access to safe, reliable, and affordable contraceptive options and family planning services, as well as ensuring that residents have the freedom to control their own bodies.
  • After the Texas State Legislature filed SB 8, a restrictive law banning abortion as early as six weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest, Judge Hidalgo brought a resolution to Commissioners Court proclaiming the county’s strong opposition to SB 8 and directing Harris County to investigate opportunities to support individuals impacted by SB 8 or otherwise mitigate the law’s negative effects.
  • Passed Resolution in Support of Transgender Youth and speaking out against two dozen discriminatory bills that were considered in the Texas Legislature targeting young transgender people, part of a wave of anti-transgender bills across the country.
  • Joined the “Ban the Box” movement to remove criminal history disclosures on county employment applications. This effort 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.
  • Created a $6 million program to support access to reproductive services such as contraceptive services, family planning education, preconception health screenings, and STI testing, prevention, and education.
  • Eliminated fines for late returns of borrowed items from the Harris County Public Library.
  • Approved a new Harris County Contractor Safety Record Policy to ensure that Harris County works only with contractors and subcontractors that prioritize the health and safety of their workers.
  • Approved a new Pay Disparity Plan to ensure Harris County employees are paid fairly for their work.
  • Authorized amicus brief supporting City of Houston lawsuit against State of Texas Death Star Bill that will take away crucial worker protections like mandated water breaks for construction workers.