Houston-Galveston Area Council Newsletter      July 2020
June Board of Directors Meeting
At its meeting on Tuesday, June 16, the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) Board of Directors approved several items of regional significance.

Many of the items discussed were related to community and environmental services. The board agreed to contract with CompuCycle to provide regional electronics collection, transportation, and recycling services as requested by local governments. It also agreed to contract with the North Central Texas Council of Governments to conduct public outreach and provide web and mapping services support for the Trash-Free Waters Program . Under the contract, the two agencies will work to update online mapping tools to identify "adopt-a-spot" trash clean-up sites, support local governments and community groups in organizing clean-up events, and engage with local businesses to help reduce improper disposal of plastic waste in the region's bayous, rivers, lakes, and other waterways.

Other items the board approved concerned transportation and mobility programs in the region. The board agreed to enter an inter-local agreement with the City of Houston for the Tow and Go Program . The Tow and Go program, which began in 2017, aims to reduce vehicle crashes and roadway congestion by quickly removing stalled vehicles from freeways to a nearby, safe location at no cost to the driver. Since its inception, the program has completed nearly 63,000 no-cost tows. The agreement approved by the board will provide additional funding to the City of Houston to managing the program and cover the cost of towing services. In addition, the board agreed to implement a Livable Centers study for the East Aldine Management District.

As part of efforts to assist the region in economic recovery and job placement, the board authorized H-GAC's Gulf Coast Economic Development District to partner with the Economic Development Administration in creating two new positions to assist local governments in applying for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding and in strategic economic planning. It also approved the use of CARES Act grant funding to recapitalize the development district's Revolving Loan Fund, which provides low-interest gap financing for businesses that create jobs.

Towards the end of the meeting, the board listened to a spotlight presentation on the Together Against the Weather hurricane preparedness campaign, which serves residents with special needs and their caregivers. H-GAC also has a dedicated website with hurricane evacuation zone maps, evacuation route maps, and planning tips for coastal residents in the region.

The next board of directors meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., July 21, 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.
Make Sure You're Ready for the 2020 Hurricane Season
Forecasters are predicting a busy 2020 hurricane season, and H-GAC wants to make sure everyone in the region is prepared.
 
Depending on the severity of the storm, it may become necessary to evacuate portions of the Houston-Galveston region. Coastal residents can take steps to prepare for an evacuation now by becoming familiar with their evacuation zone and the evacuation routes in their community. Download a copy of the 2020 hurricane evacuation zone maps and the evacuation routes map to learn your zone and the best route for your family. Visit the H-GAC hurricane evacuation web page for more information and tips on evacuation planning.
 
H-GAC’s Together Against the Weather website provides information to persons with special needs and their caregivers. Visit TogetherAgainstTheWeather.com for more information on how to prepare these special needs groups for hurricane season.
 
Also, check out our hurricane preparedness video playlist on the official H-GAC YouTube channel.
Workforce Solutions to Host Virtual Conference Commemorating 30th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act on July 23
On July 26, 1990, President George H. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide persons with disabilities equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. Thirty years later, what is the state of disability rights in the United States?

The community is invited to attend the Americans with Disabilities Act Virtual Conference, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, on Thursday, July 23, from 9-11:30 a.m.

Conference topics will include an overview by the Southwest ADA Center of the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act, job trends and current employers in the region that proactively maintain an inclusive workplace, the latest assistive technologies for people with disabilities, vocational rehabilitation services, and additional regional resources available to disabled residents. Registration is free and open to the public.

Click HERE for more information, or go to wrksolutions.com .
Workforce Solutions Use Virtual Fairs, Modern Tools to Connect Residents to Jobs
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Workforce Solutions has been using a number of different tactics to help connect job-seeking residents in the region with employers and navigate the modern, rapidly-changing job market. Starting in April, the department has hosted multiple online job fairs to help residents find openings, share their resumes, and chat with employers from the safety and comfort of their homes.

Through a partnership with ABC 13, Workforce Solutions also hosts weekly Facebook Live sessions. Every Thursday, representatives share important information about the current job market, provide advice on how to search for a job using online tools, discuss tactics on landing a job in the COVID-19 environment, and advise unemployment insurance recipients on how to document their job search activities.

The efforts so far have produced positive results. In May alone, more than 70,000 viewers tuned into the Facebook Live events, nearly 500 candidates attended virtual fairs, and, to date, 25 candidates have been hired. One resident, who was laid off at the beginning of April, was able to secure a new job and start working again in just over a month with the help of one of the virtual jobs fairs.

Residents interested in signing up for a virtual job fair can visit wrksolutions.com/events for a calendar of upcoming fairs. The calendar also contains listings of job training and networking opportunities. Young adults ages 16-24 seeking job opportunities can sign up for text alerts about new postings, hiring events, and job search seminars. Text "#GetPaid2020" to 40691 to start receiving alerts. For a full list of active job openings available to workers of all ages, visit Workforce Solutions' Jobs Now web page .

Workforce Solutions also provides services to area employers to help navigate the labor market and find quality candidates to fit their workforce needs. For more information, visit the Employer Services page or call 713-688-6090.
Community Invited to Spring Creek Watershed Protection Plan Virtual Public Meeting on July 29
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and H-GAC will hold a virtual public meeting of the Spring Creek Watershed Partnership from 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29 to discuss the watershed’s ongoing quality challenges.

The primary focus of the meeting will be to develop a protection plan to address the watershed’s elevated levels of contaminants. Attendees will hear from experts at TCEQ, H-GAC, and from other representatives of the Spring Creek Watershed Partnership and be invited to provide feedback and suggestions on strategies to reduce the watershed’s pollution levels.

The meeting will be held on the GoToWebinar platform. A registration link is available at http://springcreekpartnership.com . For more information, read our press release online .
Joshua Owens of Gulf Coast Economic Development District Participates in Webinar Discussion of CARES Act Recovery Grant Opportunities
Gulf Coast Economic Developmetn District Logo
Joshua Owens of the H-GAC Gulf Coast Economic Development District was a featured speaker at a webinar on June 18 about funding opportunities by the federal CARES Act.

The administration is providing $268 million in grant funding to Texas and the surrounding states through the CARES Act to support job creation and bolster economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Owens and fellow speakers - Jeffery Sjostrom of the Galveston Economic Development Partnership and Jason Wilson of the Economic Development Administration - gave an overview of the CARES Act, the requirements and criteria projects must meet in order to qualify, and a walkthrough of the application process.

Organizations interested in applying for a CARES Act grant may visit EDA.gov/coronavirus for more information about it and other funding opportunities. A video recording of the webinar is available at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/702984162016606982 . Click HERE to download the webinar presentation slides.

If you have any additional questions or need assistance with your grant application, please contact Joshua Owens at 832-681-2613 or at joshua.owens@h-gac.com .
Anticipated Mixed-use Development Project in Fulshear Informed by Livable Centers Study
The Fulshear City Council voted unanimously on May 19 to rezone 125 acres to allow a new mixed-use development near the city's downtown. The mixed-use component - centered on commercial areas with offices, restaurants, retail shops, and medical offices - aims to spur economic development in the area. The concept for this project comes from the Fulshear Livable Centers Study completed by H-GAC in 2018. 
 
H-GAC's Livable Centers program works with local communities to re-imagine auto-focused infrastructure, policies, and programs to be more multi-modal friendly.
H-GAC Releases FY 2020 Basin Highlights Report on the State of Region's Water Quality
H-GAC has released the Fiscal Year 2020 Clean Rivers Program Basin Highlights Report , providing an in-depth characterization of the state of water quality in the Houston-Galveston region. Key findings of the report identify specific water quality issues and trends, current strategies to address these issues, and recommendations for continued improvement. In addition to providing an overview of water quality in the region, the report provides specific and detailed characterizations of the following stream segments:

  • Little White Oak Bayou
  • Clear Creek Tidal
  • Clear Creek Above Tidal
  • Mustang Bayou
  • Halls and Willow Bayous
 
The report includes an interactive story map - which allows readers to explore each watershed and examine information related to segments and assessment units - monitoring stations, water quality impairments and concerns, land use, and locations of wastewater treatment facilities and on-site sewage facilities.

To read the full report, visit https://datalab.h-gac.com/BHR2020 .
Public Can Review Regional Transportation Performance Measures Online
Members of the public can assess the region's progress in transportation improvement on the new H-GAC Transportation Performance Measures web page . Federal legislation introduced Transportation Performance Management to address challenges facing our nation's transportation system. As a metropolitan planning organization, H-GAC sets targets and collects data on how our region's transportation system is progressing based on the following key areas:

  • Safety: goals to reduce fatalities and serious injuries for vehicle drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists
  • Pavement and Bridges: maintaining safe, quality roadways to facilitate the movement of goods and people
  • Reliability: making travel more reliable for personal travel and freight
  • Congestion: assess and measure hours of peak excessive delay; plan for an increase in multi-occupancy vehicle use or ridesharing to reduce congestion
  • Air Quality: reduce emissions and improve air quality by funding Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program-eligible projects
  • Transit Asset Management: maintaining proper conditions of public transportation vehicles and facilities to sustain a reliable multi-modal network for the region

Residents and stakeholders can learn more about these transportation performance measures and view our region's scorecard HERE . The public comment period about the performance targets and the report will run from July 8 to Aug. 8, 2020. The public may submit their comments HERE .

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.
H-GAC Transportation Department Assesses Regional Travel Impacts of COVID-19
The H-GAC Transportation Department released a report on some of the immediate impacts COVID-19 has had on traffic volumes, patterns, and transit use in the region. According to the report, the Gulf Coast region experienced a sharp decline in vehicle travel from early March when the federal government first issued an emergency declaration through the end of April when the statewide stay-at-home orders expired. Daily vehicle miles traveled decreased by 70% during this period.

The lower volumes of traffic resulted in an increase in travel speeds. Almost all the major freeways in the Greater Houston Area were averaging speeds above 50 miles per hour during peak hours as a result of the decreased roadway congestion with fewer vehicles on the roads.

Since the state began phased reopening processes on May 1, regional travel has steadily picked back up. However, even as most businesses have reopened to some capacity, as of May 18, regional travel is still 50% lower than it was pre-pandemic.

The report also found that transit agencies in the area were significantly impacted. Regional transit ridership declined by 25% in March and by 60% in April. The biggest impacts were with The Woodlands and Fort Bend transit agencies while Harris County Transit was the least impacted with only a 9% decrease in April.

The full report is available HERE .
TranStar Public Information Officer Josh Shideler Talks Traffic Management, Hurricane Preparedness at Latest Brown Bag Webinar
Josh Shideler, public information officer at Houston TranStar , gave an insightful presentation on how the agency works closely with local, regional, and state partners to coordinate transportation and emergency management in Greater Houston and the Gulf Coast region.

Shideler discussed the impact COVID-19 has had on traffic in Greater Houston. He also discussed TranStar's role in hurricane preparedness, particularly its roadway flood warning system. The system pulls real-time data from nearly 300 sensors located on roadways throughout the region to monitor rainfall and stream thresholds. Residents can use the data to monitor water levels in flood prone areas so they know which areas to avoid if they need to drive during severe weather.

Founded in 1993 to leverage and synthesize data and resources to benefit the public and first responders, TranStar provides real-time traffic maps in Houston and throughout the region. The agency's closest partners are the City of Houston, Harris County, METRO, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). TranStar's traffic maps and data are available for free on the agency's website and their mobile app for iPhone and Android devices.

To download a copy of Shideler's presentation, visit the H-GAC Brown Bag series web page . Mark your calendars for the next Brown Bag webinar on Monday, Aug. 17, featuring Brenda Bustillos from TxDOT. Bustillos will discuss the Connect Smart program. More details will be available soon.
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 .
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