Harris County establishes $10M Early Childhood Impact Fund, select organizations to administer extra $3.7M

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas -- Approximately $17.3 million in assistance programs will soon be available to Harris County residents in need, thanks to three programs recently established by the Harris County Commissioners Court.

As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, Harris County Commissioners Court authorized the CARES Act Committee to establish child care assistance and workforce development programs at an expenditure of $7.3 million during the Sept. 29 meeting.

The approved $4.7 million for the Childcare Assistance Program will help fund support services such as after-school programs, distance learning and child care for essential workers. Following approval on Oct. 27, these funds will be administered locally through the Collaborative for Children, United Way Bright Beginnings and YMCA of Greater Houston.

Another $2.6 million will be used to help Harris County residents with training, job search and work-readiness support. Likewise approved by the court Oct. 27, these funds will be administered locally through SERJobs, Lone Star College, Capital IDEA Houston, WorkTexas at Gallery Furniture, Goodwill of Houston and Alliance Community Assistance Ministries of Greater Houston.

In addition to these programs, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also spearheaded an effort to establish a $10 million Early Childhood Impact Fund, which was approved Oct. 27.

According to court documents, the new program aims to make seed investments in initiatives with high potential to improve early health and development outcomes and reduce disparities, while engaging a third-party research team to conduct a rigorous impact evaluation of funded initiatives and generate evidence about how to better meet the needs of young children and their families in Harris County.

"You're hard-pressed to find a public intervention that's more impactful than early childhood education," Hidalgo said during the meeting. "Obviously, we were hoping for a really big program this year. Because of COVID, it's had to be a little bit different. But we've gone through community engagement this year; we've evaluated options; and what we're proposing is an impact fund that will identify and fund and evaluate key early childhood interventions and, hopefully, serve as an incubator for those options that are most promising."

Garcia lauded the initiative calling the Early Child Impact Fund "one of the most significant investments" made in Harris County history. Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis was likewise in favor of the program.

"Every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, and we know that this starts early," Ellis wrote in a Facebook post following the vote. "I wholeheartedly support Judge Hidalgo's Early Childhood Impact Fund. This initial funding is an important first step in setting up high-quality early childhood programs for Harris County's children and families. It will provide critical funding for programs and interventions that focus on supporting young children and families across Harris County. When we invest in future generations, our entire community benefits. Early childhood education can especially make an impact on the most vulnerable-reducing future disparities in income and health."

The program was approved in a split 3-2 vote, with Precinct 3 and 4 Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle dissenting.

"I'm opposed. I don't believe that this is the appropriate role for the county government. We've got departments of education; we've got other groups; so I'm opposed to both," Cagle said during the meeting.

This content was provided by our partners at Community Impact Newspaper.