Policy & Innovation

Economic Opportunity & Education

Harris County has been an economic leader for several decades and is the headquarters for several Fortune 500 companies. Harris County also has a higher poverty rate than the national average, with a greater disparity in the number of residents under 18 years living in poverty. 

Harris County and Precinct 4 recognize that long-standing inequities have made it harder for some communities to recover from the pandemic, natural disasters, and several economic downturns. We are committed to advancing equity and closing gaps in economic, housing, and education outcomes.

Precinct 4 will invest in programs that provide economic stability for vulnerable families and economic opportunity and development through workforce development for our youth and adults and by keeping the County competitive as a global economic hub.

Key Initiatives

Early Childhood Education

Quality child care is linked to higher educational attainment rates, adult employment, and lower rates of drug use and criminal outcomes.  U.S. businesses lose over $12 billion yearly because of barriers to child care for their employees. Families with access to affordable and reliable child care can increase their earnings through better employment, promotions, or additional hours. 

  • Early REACH- Harris County is investing $26M to provide up to 1,000 children with quality child care through a partnership with BakerRipley and the United Way. The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted the child care sector, with 37% of Texas providers temporarily closing and 8% permanently closing. Approximately 105,000 low-income Harris County infants and toddlers with working parents live in a “quality childcare desert” where there are few or no affordable child care options in their area.
  • Early Childhood Impact Fund (ECIF)- Through two rounds of Early Childhood Impact Fund awards, Harris County has invested over $16M to identify and fund the most promising and cost-effective evidence-based solutions for improving early childhood outcomes. Harris County is investing in parent education, workforce development, mental health, and early interventions and using a third-party evaluation to monitor the short and long-term impact of the programs awarded.
  • County Connections- In 2021, the County partnered with the Harris County Department of Education to provide summer programming for students in grades K-12. In April 2023, the county renewed its commitment and signed a three-year, $7.1M agreement to allow low-income families to participate in structured summer experiences across the precincts each summer through 2026.  

Economic Opportunity

Providing economic opportunity to all residents is a component of giving every individual a chance to succeed regardless of their background or economic status. The county has made investments in education, workforce development to upskill and reskill employees, promoting small business development, and MWBE vendor diversity.

  • Apprenticeship Workforce Program- In 2023, The Texas Gulf Coast AFL-CIO and NPower were awarded funds to increase apprenticeship opportunities in traditional and high-growth industries within Harris County.  These programs will strengthen our workforce in key industries and keep Houston competitive.
  • Home-Based Child Care Providers- Using Early Childhood Impact Fund dollars, the Alliance was awarded funding to help business owners (predominantly women) set up home-based care businesses so that they can provide for their own families. The program will, at the same time, create more home-based childcare seats in low-to-moderate-income areas.
  • Tax Abatement- Harris County has re-adopted its Guidelines and Criteria for granting Tax Abatement through April 2025. As a tool, tax abatement can help Harris County remain competitive in attracting new jobs and industries to the region. There are additional incentives for LEED® certified new construction and for creating permanent jobs for residents in low-income areas. 
  • Language Access – Commissioner Briones wasproud to support an application to the Houston Endowment for grant funds tocreate a Language Access Office housed within the Research and AnalysisDivision of the County. Precinct 4 is committed to sustaining and expandinglanguage accessibility in all County services.
  • NaturalizationIn the Greater Houston region, about 300,000 peopleare eligible for naturalization, but the process can be inaccessible to manypeople due to financial reasons and language barriers. Commissioner Brionessupported grant funding from the  NationalPartnership for New Americans and the Houston Endowment for naturalizationoutreach to help eligible residents become citizens. The Court also dedicated federal funding tofour Harris County non-profits to provide legal services and naturalization resources to immigrants. Together, these investments will help County residentsachieve the American Dream.

Affordable Housing

Harris County partnered with the Kinder Institute to complete a housing needs assessment. The “My Home Is Here” report found that almost 500,000 families paid more than 30% of their household income on housing. This cost burden was found across Harris County’s top 25 occupations: skilled workers, retail, teachers, fast food employees, etc. The inability to access housing can have lasting adverse health and socioeconomic effects on residents. For the county as a whole, employee access to available and affordable housing can be a major component in deciding whether to move to a new region for employers.

  • Emergency Rental Assistance- Harris County has distributed over $178M in rental assistance to keep 58,000 families housed and support over 11,000 local landlords. Through consistently meeting performance outcomes, the county has received several rounds of ERA funding through the U.S. Department of Treasury, including a $3.3 M additional award on April 12, 2023.
  • Eviction Defense- In 2020, Harris County approved $1M for eviction defense of low-income families; another $4M was awarded in March 2023. Legal representation has been shown to increase court efficiency and fairness, keep tenants in their homes, secure more favorable move-outs and reduce emergency shelter use.  On October 31, 2023, we took major steps towards increasing justice for those seeking relief from eviction with the approval of two positions for the County Civil Courts at Law Eviction Appeal docket. The addition of an associate judge and a court coordinator will help tenants avoid undue financial and mental stress from a lengthy legal process and provide tenants another opportunity to reverse their eviction outcomes.

  • Single Family Home Acquisition- On April 25, 2023, Commissioner’s Court allocated $15M in federal funds to acquire and sell at least 80 single-family homes. Harris County will use this program to create resilient, long-term affordable housing by putting the land in the Harris County Community Land Trust to keep the homes available to families earning at or below 80% of the median income.
  • Multi-Family Home Acquisition- The county will use additional federal funds to acquire existing affordable multi-family housing properties to extend their affordability period and existing market-rate multi-family properties to add new affordable units to the housing inventory.