Program Planning & Innovation


Disparity Study Fund

The Harris County Disparity Study Fund supports Community Colleges and Independent School Districts in developing inclusive procurement practices through the completion of a Disparity Study. The Fund will provide financial resources to pay a vendor to conduct disparity studies regarding the utilization of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs), upon the condition that recipient institutions create and adoption of M/WBE programs designed using national best practices to remedy any race and gender disparities identified.

The Fund is currently accepting Letters of Intent from institutions that are partially or wholly located in Harris County. Eligible Independent School Districts and Community Colleges in Harris County list.

How to Apply?

Eligible Independent Schools Districts and Community Colleges can submit their Letter of Interest via this link.


Small Business Support 2021

In 2021, Harris County created a $30 Million Small Business Relief Fund to support micro and small businesses recovering from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Harris County Small Business Relief Fund” provided grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to eligible micro and small businesses located inside Harris County. The program was administered by LiftFund, a Texas CDFI with over 25 years’ experience serving small and underserved entrepreneurs. The Small Business Relief Fund program accepted applications from Monday, September 20, to Monday, October 4 and received over 10,200 applications from small business owners across Harris County for a total requested funding amount of over $136.3 Million. Ultimately, Harris County was able to assist over 1,500 qualifying micro and small businesses within the county.

Hire Up Harris Program

Hire Up Harris is a workforce development initiative dedicated to supporting residents of Harris County that are seeking to improve their career through access to high quality jobs that pay a living wage, provide benefits, and have the potential for further economic advancement. The program focuses on funding high-quality job training programs which offer residents technical or sectoral-based training, licenses, degrees, or other industry-recognized qualifications, coupled with career success training, a concrete pipeline to employment, and wraparound services support. It is the goal of Harris County to invest in skills training and wrap around support services that can lift target populations underemployed, unemployed, dislocated workers, opportunity youth, people of color, women, and those without college degrees - from poverty and economic insecurity. Further, Harris County aims to build capacity among organizations that provide workforce training by establishing a Learning Group cohort to facilitate the sharing and uptake of best practices that will result in transformational outcomes. The program is tentatively scheduled to begin the Fall of 2022.

Apprenticeship Program

The Apprenticeship initiative through Harris County is a targeted investment to increase apprenticeship opportunities within the county. By expanding occupational training programs and/or apprentice slots, the primary outcome is to establish new apprenticeship opportunities and further engage the current apprenticeship systems for apprentice support and success. Harris County is working with vendors to create and/or expand opportunities for the US Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) in traditional and high growth emerging industries within the county. The initiative specifically targets increasing access to apprenticeship opportunities for groups traditionally underrepresented in apprenticeship, including but not limited to underemployed, unemployed, dislocated workers, opportunity youth, people of color, women, and those without college degrees. For an additional layer of support, Harris County has asked that chosen vendors also provide wraparound support services to hopefully assist in increasing program completion, program placements, and overall retention rates. The program is tentatively scheduled to begin the Fall of 2022.

Flexible Financial Assistance Program

On June 29, 2021, Harris County Commissioners Court approved the Flexible Financial Assistance Program and authorized a partnership with Catholic Charities to administer administration costs and the direct assistance payments. The program aims to serve approximately 20,000 households in Harris County with grants of $1,500 per household. On August 10, 2021, the Harris County Commissioners Court approved another $32.7 million for the Flexible Financial Cash Assistance for Households Program, making the total for the program $65.4 million. The intent of the funding was to provide direct and flexible financial assistance to low-income households adversely impacted by COVID-19 to increase their ability to pay for usual expenses and help with their long-term recovery.

Essential Workers Board

The Harris County Essential Workers Board (HCEWB) is a new body established by the Commissioners Court to be comprised of Essential Workers to provide feedback and recommendations to the Department of Economic Equity and Opportunity (DEEO) and other relevant Harris County Departments and, where appropriate, serve in an advisory capacity to Commissioners Court on Harris County programs, policies, and initiatives that recognize and support workers.

For more information, visit the Essential Workers Board website.

Program Planning & Innovation

The Program Planning & Innovation Division (PP&I) works to realize DEEO’s mission to eliminate disparities and advance inclusivity, accessibility, and shared prosperity for all residents and businesses in Harris County. The division serves as an advisor and subject matter expert to County leaders, businesses, individuals, and other vested stakeholders.

The division provides program planning with a focus on innovation, community insights, program evaluation and analytics, and policy advising to advance equity and economic opportunity in Harris County.

The PP&I Division is comprised of three teams.

The Policy & Special Projects team drafts policies for DEEO’s programs and advises departments and offices across the County on their policy development to ensure that as policies are developed, they are:

  • Centered around economic equity and opportunity,
  • Community benefits are identified and codified into the policies,
  • Best practices, data analysis, and community insights are used to develop the policies, and
  • Policies are published to ensure transparency with the residents of Harris County and provide certainty to the business community.

Leveraging national best practices, the team will also pilot special projects focused on developing innovative and scalable practices for the County. The team will also test and build the business case for economic equity and opportunity using the community insights gained by the Analytics and Evaluation team.

The Analytics & Evaluation team collects data and conducts quantitative data analysis and qualitative research in support of DEEO’s and the County’s equity work. Quantitative data analysis is central to gaining an understanding of where we are as a community and the impact of County programs on its residents and communities. The qualitative research includes focus groups and interviews to engage with community members and gain an understanding of the community’s views of DEEO’s work. This will ensure new programs or services meet the self-identified needs of the communities and the County attempt to serve. The team’s work will be published as reports or interactive dashboards to ensure transparency. The data and research will support assessment of the impact Harris County programs and policies have on its communities over time.

The Strategic Initiatives team works on new initiatives based on requests received from Commissioners Court. Under the direction of the Director of PP & I, this team works on various program pilots and projects, collaborating closely with the Policy & Special Project steam to ensure synergy and avoid duplication of efforts. Currently, the Strategic Initiatives team is managing the ARPA-funded projects assigned to the DEEO in the areas of workforce and small business.