Houston-Galveston Area Council Newsletter    September 2020
August Board of Directors Meeting
At its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 18, the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) Board of Directors approved several items of regional significance.

The board showcased its support of Fort Bend County's efforts to provide affordable housing and equitable economic opportunity for all its residents - especially low-income families - by finding its FY 2020 Action Plan to be in alignment with H-GAC plans, policies, and review criteria - including Our Great Region 2040, the 2020-24 Draft Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, and the Fair Housing Equity Assessment.

The Fort Bend County FY 2020 Action plan dedicates more than $4.4 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant funds to public, non-profit, and private partnerships for the 2020 fiscal year that will enable them to provide decent housing, establish and maintain a suitable living environment, and expand economic opportunities for low-income residents. The plan also includes a strategic outline on carrying out these partnership programs and an action plan that provides a basis for assessing performance. For more information on the FY 2020 Action Plan, visit the Fort Bend County Texas website.

The board also put its support behind several projects and initiatives that will help improve air quality and the environment in our region. It approved agreements with Pearland Independent School District and the Coalition for Sustainable Initiatives Inc. to replace six school buses and 29 short-haul UPS vehicles with clean-energy engine vehicles. The HGACBuy Cooperative Purchasing Program was approved to establish contracts with 23 parks and recreation equipment vendors, allowing local governments access to purchase equipment at competitive rates for their parks, water parks, playgrounds, and other recreational spaces. Additionally, H-GAC was approved to work with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to develop a protection plan for Clear Creek Watershed, and the board recognized the agency's efforts this year improve water quality in our region, as detailed in the FY 2020 604(b) Water Quality Management Plan Report.

Towards the end of the meeting, the board appointed new members to its advisory committees, which include the Aging and Disability Advisory Committee, the Area Emission Reduction Credit Organization, the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, the Gulf Coast Economic Development District, the Regional Air Quality Planning Committee, the Regional Flood Management Committee, the Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee, and the Solid Waste Management Committee. Click HERE for a full list of the new committee members and their nominators.
Next Board Meeting: Tuesday, Sept. 15

The next board of directors meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., Sept. 15, 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: U.S. Census Public Outreach
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 August meeting, the board listened to a spotlight presentation of the communications and outreach team's U.S. Census public outreach campaign.
The COVID-19 outbreak has produced significant challenges to making sure residents are counted in the U.S. Census. 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. They decide how much representation we receive. An undercount of just 1% could result in a $3 billion loss in federal funding for the state.

The H-GAC Communications and Outreach team has been working closely with community groups and leaders to raise awareness of the importance of taking the U.S. Census and help to ensure everyone in our region is counted. The Census takes just five minutes to complete. It can be taken online at 2020census.gov, by phone, or by mail in more than 13 languages. Census takers are also out in communities to make sure residents are being counted.

Community leaders and stakeholders can help get the word out about the Census and ensure as many people in the Houston-Galveston region are counted before the Sept. 30 deadline. Visit h-gac.com/census/ for infographics, downloadable flyers, reminder cards, shareable social media graphics and other promotional materials to help spread the word about the importance of the U.S. Census. Say YES to Census 2020, and help us shape the next 10 years for the Gulf Coast region.
Program Lead: Meagan Coughlin, APR
Title: Director of Communications
Years Served at H-GAC: 3
Contact Email: Meagan.Coughlin@h-gac.com
Contact Phone: 713-993-4504
Hurricane Preparedness Resources for Coastal Residents and Special Needs Individuals
H-GAC wants to make sure everyone in the region is safe and prepared this hurricane season.

Residents who live in an evacuation zone can visit the H-GAC hurricane evacuation planning website to download copies of the 2020 zip zone maps, hurricane evacuation route maps, and receive tips on how to prepare for an evacuation.

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.
Save the Date for the Texas Municipal League Fall Virtual Meeting
The Texas Municipal League Region 14 fall virtual meeting will take place from 3-4:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 24.

Featured guest speakers will include TML Executive Director Bennett Sandlin and TML Legislative Counsel Bill Longley.

Registration details will be available soon.
H-GAC Celebrates Commute Solutions Month
September is Commute Solutions Month! All month long, we’ll be celebrating with the launch of our new Make Your Commute Count game, educational webinars, and other fun virtual activities showcasing how small changes in your daily commute to work or school can make a big impact and a more sustainable region.

You’ll also hear from our regional transit partners on the steps they’re taking to protect the health and safety of their riders during the pandemic.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for updates on all that’s happening with Commute Solutions Month. For more information about Commute Solutions, visit our website at yourcommutesolution.org.
Annual H-GAC Land Use/Transportation Workshop to Focus on Facilitating Parking for Livable Centers
H-GAC's annual Land Use/Transportation Workshop will focus on facilitating parking for Livable Centers. The workshop will take place online and feature two events on Thursday, Sept. 17 and Friday, Sept.18. Both events are free and open to the community.
Kick-Off Event: Thursday, Sept. 17 | 4:30-6 p.m.
Join H-GAC representatives, local parking experts, and community partners as we explore how the current environment and future innovations are affecting how we plan for parking as well as how parking may change how we develop in the Houston-Galveston region. Learn what topics are changing the way we think about parking and hear from our expert panel regarding COVID-19 impacts, autonomous vehicles, rideshare, and more. Learn more and register here.

Half-Day Workshop: Friday, Sept. 18 | 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Learn how you can invigorate main streets, downtown centers, or town centers with parking solutions that leverage your community's existing resources, enhance community context, and build partnerships that incentivize new investments based on your community needs. Gain expert insight, hear local case study examples, and uncover opportunities for future partnerships. Learn more and register here.
For more information about Livable Centers programs, events, and initiatives, visit h-gac.com/livable-centers or email livablecenters@h-gac.com.
15th Annual Parks and Natural Areas Awards Application Period Now Open
H-GAC's 15th annual Parks and Natural Areas (PNA) Awards program is now accepting applications.
The Parks and Natural Areas Awards honor projects in four categories: Projects Over $500,000; Projects Under $500,000; Planning Process; and Policy Tools. Winning entries serve as models for planning and project implementation for parks and natural areas in the region. The application period will be open until 5 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 30. 
An online application guide is available. No funding is associated with this awards program.
Winners will be notified in December and recognized in 2021. For more information, contact Andrea Tantillo at 832-681-2507 or read our news release online.
July 2020 Gulf Coast Labor Market Report
The July not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell to 9.4% in Houston, marginally down from June’s 9.7% while up from 4.1% in July 2019. Based on seasonally or not-seasonally adjusted data, total job growth across May, June, and July indicates that approximately one-third of the roughly 350,000 jobs lost in March and April due to initial impacts of COVID-19 have been recovered to date.

Workforce Solutions Economist Parker Harvey noted that despite incremental improvement, “unemployment remains elevated even compared to the peak of the Great Recession with nearly 320,000 people across the Houston-area looking for a new job.” Read the full report from Workforce Solutions
H-GAC Elder Justice Program Aims to Build, Strengthen Partnerships to Address Elder Abuse in the Region
Elder abuse is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. According to the FBI, the incidence of elder abuse is expected to double by 2030. In response, H-GAC launched the Elder Justice Program to bring together government agencies and community organizations to craft a coordinated response to elder abuse throughout the Houston-Galveston region.

The Elder Justice Program employs four key strategies:

  • Filling gaps in services: Few programs are designed specifically to service abused seniors, who often don’t identify themselves as crime victims. H-GAC staff and volunteers offer advocacy, resource referrals, and civil legal assistance to seniors who are being physically or financially victimized.

  • Encouraging victims to come forward: Countering victim (and witness) reluctance to involve police or adult protective services by linking a variety of entry points (medical clinics, financial planners, etc.) into a coordinated response system.

  • Teaching professionals to respond: Improving reporting by training not only police and prosecutors but also professionals who regularly encounter seniors how to recognize the red flags of abuse and to report.

  • Establishing community response: Establish multi-disciplinary response teams that allow multiple investigators/agencies to share evidence and to collaborate in their areas of expertise while ensuring that victims have access to all available resources for protection and recovery.
The Elder Justice Program currently provides direct services in Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, and Montgomery counties and will expand, in stages, to include all 13 counties in region. Direct services to victims are underwritten by the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division using Victims of Crime Act funds from the U.S. Department of Justice. For more information about the program, contact Jackie Pontello or Kelly McCann at 346-500-4620.

To report elder abuse, call the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services abuse hotline at 1-800-252-5400. If it is an emergency or life-threatening situation, call 911.
Area Agency on Aging Offers Free, Unbiased Assistance During Medicare’s Open Enrollment
AAA logo
Medicare's annual open enrollment period is coming soon (Oct. 15 - Dec. 17, 2020). As the local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller, and Wharton counties, the Houston-Galveston Area Agency on Aging has certified staff ready to help Medicare beneficiaries understand their plan options without having to leave their home.

To kick-off Medicare’s open enrollment, the Area Agency on Aging is holding an educational seminar through Zoom, which will provide an overview of Medicare options, important timelines to be aware of, available assistance programs, and how the local SHIP can help someone review their options. 

This seminar will be available in both English and in Spanish at the dates and times below:

For more information about the Medicare 101 seminars or about our Medicare benefits counseling services, please call the Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-437-7396.
Transportation Engineer Brenda Bustillos Discusses ConnectSmart Program at Latest Brown Bag Event
Brenda Bustillos, transportation engineer at the Texas Department of Transportation, discussed ConnectSmart at the latest Brown Bag webinar, held on Monday, Aug. 17.

ConnectSmart, a federally-funded program, aims to deploy the latest transportation technologies to change the way people think about traveling in the Greater Houston region. The program will culminate in an app scheduled to launch in 2021. This app would act as a single platform for users to plan out trips to work, events, or to run errands; view all types of transportation options available to them along their route (including carpooling, transit, and bike share options); and receive real-time information about traffic conditions. It would also include incentives for travelers to adopt alternative forms of transportation and a seamless pay feature allowing them to pay in advance for all the transportation options they plan to use in their trip.

TxDOT and transportation planners in the region would use data from the app to better understand traffic patterns and driving habits in the region, which would in turn help them better plan logistics for large events such as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, increase safety in road construction work zones, and identify key areas to deploy new multi-modal transportation systems.

A recording of the webinar is available at the H-GAC webinar hub page. The next Brown Bag webinar will take place on Monday, Oct. 19 and will cover Vision Zero, the City of Houston's initiative to reduce traffic fatalities to zero.
Take the Montrose Livable Centers Self-Guided Walking Tour
The Montrose Livable Centers Study was commissioned by H-GAC and Montrose Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 27 to assess current challenges, identify opportunities to create places where people can live, work, and play with less reliance on their cars, and encourage a complementary mix of land uses for a more walkable, connected environment that is also accessible by multimodal transportation.

Residents and stakeholders are invited to take the Montrose Livable Centers self-guided neighborhood walking tour. This activity will identify 19 key existing historical and other neighborhood assets throughout Montrose, highlighting certain elements and their relation to the Montrose Livable Centers project. Our goal for this activity is to share our findings from our existing conditions and needs assessment research and get feedback from the public on our findings, the existing and historical elements of the Montrose neighborhood, and how you hope to see these parts of Montrose preserved or improved as a part of the concept plan.

Whether you take this tour from your couch, or decide to walk or bike the entire route or sections of it, we appreciate your feedback. For more information about Livable Centers and its planning studies, visit h-gac.com/livable-centers.
Individuals with Disabilities Invited to Take Survey on TxDOT Accessibility Program
2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Through its accessibility program, the Texas Department of Transportation is committed to ensuring that its programs, services, activities, and facilities are all inclusive, non-discriminatory, and fully accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities and stakeholders are invited to complete a survey to provide feedback on the agency's efforts, and to share their experiences using transportation services and visiting TxDOT facilities. The survey is available in English and in Spanish:

This survey will be open until Sept. 30, 2020.

For more information about the survey or about the accessibility program, contact Jannie Blackmon at 713-802-5008 or Jannie.Blackmon@txdot.gov.
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.