Houston-Galveston Area Council Newsletter     August 2020
July Board of Directors Meeting
At its meeting on Tuesday, July 21, the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) Board of Directors approved several items of regional significance.

Elevated bacteria levels in area waterways continues to be the number one water quality issue in the Houston-Galveston region. The board agreed to increase funding to a contract with the Galveston Bay Estuary Program and to enter a contract with Bayou Preservation Association. H-GAC will work with these organizations to conduct walking surveys of watersheds prioritized for bacteria reduction efforts, document suspected sources of bacteria in the waterways, and conduct monitoring to locate and verify the sources.

The board also approved agreements with four area independent school districts - Conroe, Danbury, New Caney, and Magnolia - to replace 32 school buses with cleaner, low-emissions buses through the Clean Vehicles and Heavy-Duty Diesel Assistance programs. These grant-funded programs aim to improve air quality and support the local energy economy by helping school districts, businesses, and local governments replace or retrofit older, high-emission, diesel, and gasoline engines with cleaner, low emission engines.

Broadband access continues to be a challenge in many rural and underserved communities in Texas. In recognition that improved high-speed internet access is critical to the region's economic development, the board approved the Gulf Coast Economic Development District's Regional Plan for High-Speed Internet.

The plan aims to bridge the digital divide by creating a framework for local governments seeking to expand access to high-speed internet in the Houston-Galveston region. It outlines steps a community should take to expand access, discusses options for financing - such as federal resources - and it includes local case studies of how the Brazos Valley Council of Governments, the city of El Campo, and the city of Mont Belvieu expanded broadband access in their communities. The plan is also in alignment with Our Great Region 2040 and the 2020-24 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.
Next Board Meeting: Tuesday, Aug. 18

The next board of directors meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., Aug. 18, 2020. If there are any scheduling or location updates to this meeting, we will notify the public immediately. For more information on H-GAC's Board of Directors, past meeting agendas or minutes, or to find dates for future meetings, visit H-GAC's website.
H-GAC Program Spotlight: Houston-Galveston Area Local Development Corporation
To increase awareness of our agency and highlight some of the great work we do, H-GAC spotlights a program or initiative at every Board of Directors meeting. At its July meeting, the board listened to a spotlight presentation of the Houston-Galveston Area Local Development Corporation (H-GALDC).
Founded in the early 1980s, the Houston-Galveston Local Development Corporation supports economic development in the 13-county Houston-Galveston region by offering low-cost, fixed-rate financing to small businesses. We collaborate with a variety of community stakeholders to identify and fund viable projects, with an emphasis on rural and underserved communities. Additionally, as a U.S. Small Business Administration Certified Development Corporation, the H-GALDC partners with banks to offer government-guaranteed loans for small businesses.

The H-GALDC has seen its opportunities to assist small businesses in the region increase dramatically due to the impact of COVID-19. In response to the pandemic, we launched the Harris County COVID-19 Forgivable Loan Program, which aided the recovery of approximately 450 small businesses in Harris County by providing zero-percent interest, fully forgivable loans of up to $25,000.
The local development corporation also recently recapitalized its Revolving Loan Program through the Economic Development Administration. The increased funding will provide immediate relief to businesses throughout the region who have been impacted by COVID-19 and are interested in receiving microloans, bridge loans or traditional real estate and working capital loans.
With loan sizes ranging from $25,000 to $5,000,000 or more the H-GALDC has customized loan products for nearly any small business. For more information about the H-GALDC and the resources it offers to small businesses, visit hgaldc.com.
Program Lead: Omar Fortune
Title: Manager, Public Services
Years Served at H-GAC: 7
Contact Email: Omar.Fortune@h-gac.com
Contact Phone: 713-993-2499
Tow and Go Service Expands to Harris County, Bellaire, Jersey Village, La Porte, and Humble
H-GAC has expanded the service area of the Gulf Coast Regional Tow and Go™ Program. The service area now includes all camera-monitored freeways in Harris County, Bellaire, Jersey Village, La Porte and Humble.

What is Tow and Go?

The Gulf Coast Regional Tow and Go™ Program provides motorists with no-cost towing when their vehicle breaks down from mechanical failure (e.g., out of gas, overheating, flat tire) in the main lanes, shoulders, ramps or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV)/High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes of freeways in the Tow and Go service area.

H-GAC manages the Tow and Go Program through funding provided by the Federal Highway Administration and the Texas Department of Transportation. Participants in the program include the City of Houston, Harris County, and representatives from the towing industry that operate out of Houston TranStar.

For more information about Tow and Go, including a list of FAQs and motorist guidelines, visit towandgo.com.
Hurricane Preparedness Resources for Coastal Residents and Special Needs Individuals
H-GAC wants to make sure everyone in the region is prepared for hurricane season.

Residents who live in an evacuation zone are encouraged to download a printed and digital copy of the 2020 hurricane evacuation map to help determine the best route for them and their families if they are called to evacuate.

Visit TogetherAgainstTheWeather.com for tool kits and strategies on preparing your home and family for a hurricane or severe storm. The page also contains helpful materials for those caring for small children, special need individuals, and those with health conditions.

H-GAC Hurricane Experts Featured on 104.1 KRBE Radio Show "Around H-Town"

H-GAC transportation planners Stephan Gage and Justin Riley discussed hurricane preparedness and evacuation planning with Freddy Cruz, host of the 104.1 KRBE radio show "Around H-Town". Click HERE to listen to the interview. The segment is labeled "Around H-Town - Houston-Galveston Area Council - 07-19-20."
Register for Free, Upcoming H-GAC Webinars at New Hub Page
H-GAC has launched a new hub page offering residents and stakeholders a one-stop access point for all the agency's upcoming and past webinars. H-GAC routinely hosts webinars on regional matters such as transportation and mobility, community and environmental initiatives, business and economic development, public safety, workforce solutions, and aging and disability programs. All webinars are free and open to the public.

Visit the H-GAC webinar hub at h-gac.com/webinars/. Bookmark the page in your favorite internet browser, and check back frequently for new, upcoming webinar events!
Upcoming Webinars of Interest

Wednesday, Aug. 26
9-11 a.m.

The August solid waste workshop will focus on waste diversion - keeping waste out of landfills. Specific topics include uniform recycling, construct materials reuse, composting, and food waste diversion.

Click HERE to register.
Past Webinars of Interest

Recorded June 18, 2020

The Economic Development Administration is providing $268 million in grant funding to Texas and the surrounding states to support job creation and bolster economic recovery. Joshua Owens of the Gulf Coast Economic Development District, Jeffrey Slostrom of the Galveston Economic Development Partnership, and Jason Wilson of the Economic Development Administration discuss how communities can access this grant funding for their economic development projects.

Click HERE to watch the webinar recording.
Submit Your Public Comments about the State of Transportation in the Region by Aug. 8, 2020
H-GAC has released the draft 2020 Transportation Performance Measures report and scorecard, evaluating the region's progress in meeting key goals for improved performance of our transportation system. Saturday, Aug. 8 is the last day residents and stakeholders can submit public comments about the report and scorecard.

Members of the public may submit their comments using any of the following methods:

Attention: H-GAC Transportation Performance Measures Comments
P.O. Box 22777
Houston, TX 77227-2777
The 2045 Regional Transportation Plan prioritizes transportation investments that will contribute towards achieving the transportation performance measures. Click HERE to learn more about the 2045 Regional Transportation Plan.
Houston-Galveston Area Meal Providers for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities in Need of Volunteers
The Houston-Galveston Area Agency on Aging contracts with governmental and non-profit service providers to deliver nutritious meals to senior residents and residents with disabilities in Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller, and Wharton counties. These providers are in need of volunteers to help with packing and delivering meals to these groups.

If you are a resident in any of these counties and would like to volunteer to assist seniors and disabled people in need, contact the Area Agency on Aging at 1-855-937-2372 (toll free) or 832-681-2635 (local) to get connected with a provider near you.
HGACBuy Spotlights BK Technologies' Radios for Heroes Program
The HGACBuy Cooperative Purchasing Program is proud to partner with vendors across the country that make it their mission to better communities. In the inaugural interview of its new Co-Branding Special series, HGACBuy spoke with Tim Vitou, president of BK Technologies, an American holding company that specializes in building radio communications equipment for emergency first responders, public safety officers, and government agencies.

Watch the full interview on the HGACBuy Facebook page. For more information about HGACBuy, visit hgacbuy.org.
Next Brown Bag Webinar Featuring Brenda Bustillos at TxDOT Takes Place on Monday, Aug. 17
The next Brown Bag webinar on Monday, Aug. 17, features Brenda Bustillos, transportation engineer at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Bustillos will discuss ConnectSmart, a federally-funded program focused on deploying the latest advanced transportation technologies to help inform, manage, and reduce congestion within the Houston region.

Click HERE to save the Zoom webinar link and event information to your calendar.

Missed the last Brown Bag webinar? Click HERE to view the presentation slides from our latest Brown Bag speaker, Houston TranStar's Josh Shideler, on hurricane preparedness.
Mark Your Calendars! Commute Solutions Month in September is Going Virtual
September is Commute Solutions Month, and this year, Commute Solutions it taking it virtual. Commuters will have the chance to participate in several fun online events and activities, including our Bike to Work Week Challenge, the new "Make Your Commute Count" game, and prize drawings throughout the month.
Join us in September, and make your commute count this Commute Solutions Month by visiting yourcommutesolution.org.
H-GAC, TCEQ Hosting Public Meetings in August on Water Quality Issues Affecting Key Watersheds in the Region
In August, H-GAC and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will be hosting virtual public meetings on water quality issues affecting Chocolate Bay and Cotton Bayou watersheds. Residents and stakeholders in these communities are encouraged to attend and share their thoughts with H-GAC and TCEQ representatives.
Thursday, Aug. 13
2-4 p.m.

H-GAC and TCEQ invite area stakeholders to an online public meeting to provide input and feedback to help create a plan to reduce high concentrations of bacteria found in the Chocolate Bay Watershed, including Chocolate, Halls, and Mustang bayous. During the meeting, participants will review and discuss a draft plan to address the bacteria in the impacted watershed. Register online to attend the meeting, which will be held via GoToWebinar. For more information, visit the project website or contact Steven Johnston at 832-681-2579.
water body meandering through trees and grass
Thursday, Aug. 20
2-4 p.m.

H-GAC will host an online public meeting to discuss water quality in the Cotton Bayou Watershed. H-GAC and TCEQ have been working on a long-term project to address high levels of bacteria in the bayou. The first step is to analyze bacteria level trends and possible causes. At this meeting, H-GAC will provide an update on its latest findings and hear from people who live, work, and enjoy outdoor activities in the watershed. Register online to attend the meeting, which will be held via GoToWebinar. For more information, contact Rachel Windham at 713-993-2497.
It's Not Too Late to Take the Census!
There's still time to take the 2020 U.S. Census online! Census results show where communities need new schools, clinics, roads and other services benefiting families, older adults and children. They help decide federal funding for disaster recovery, mental health services, medical benefits programs, education programs and much more. When you’re counted in the census, you’re helping to build a better community and a stronger Gulf Coast region.  

Complete the census online in less than 10 minutes at 2020census.gov. The census is also available by phone and by mail in more than 13 languages. Say YES to Census 2020, and help us shape the next 10 years for the Gulf Coast region. You deserved to be counted!
H-GAC is Hiring
Home to more than 7 million people, the Houston-Galveston region is one of the fastest-growing and most diverse regions in the country. Making sure the region remains one of the nation’s leading places to live, work, and prosper doesn’t just happen—it takes planning and partnerships.

If you are looking for a career where you can help make a difference in urban, suburban, and rural communities, the Houston-Galveston Area Council has exciting opportunities for you. For more information or to apply for a job, visit the careers page on H-GAC's website.