Editor's note: Harris County Public Health officials clarified the ACCESS Harris County program's future is not yet determined.

As counties approach the December deadline to obligate any remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds, a look back shows Fort Bend County focused on maintaining the business economy while Harris County invested heavily in health initiatives.

The details

Of the $141.5 million Harris County has allocated to health services, $25.1 million went to launch ACCESS Harris County. The agency partners with various organizations across the Houston area to provide the county’s vulnerable population with comprehensive services, including primary care assistance, substance abuse counseling, mental health services, housing, shelter services and food assistance.

ACCESS Harris began in April a partnership with Katy nonprofit Clothed by Faith. Executive Director Melinda Stephenson said the nonprofit has provided clothes to:
  • More than 22,000 individuals in the Houston area in 2023 so far
  • About 200 through ACCESS Harris since April
“We have so many clothes—those of us that are blessed to just be able to go shop when we want to,” she said. “There's multiple reasons why somebody could need that help, and so we're here to help them when they need it.”

The big picture

ARPA money temporarily funded five ACCESS Harris employees and allowed Harris County Public Health to build out enabling technology for the program, HCPH officials said via email. Harris County's general fund pays for ACCESS Harris' operational costs, but the program's status once ARPA funding runs out isn't determined, officials said.

"The stand-alone costs funded through ARPA provide enabling technology that will serve throughout the lifetime of the program by providing direct services and connecting participants with compounding needs to other service agencies across Harris County," officials said.

What's next

With federal funding ending, counties must determine which grants and programs will receive more funding. Find out more information on how Houston-area counties are utilizing ARPA funding.