The first $70 million in settlement payments to residents affected by the Merrimack Valley gas explosions will be mailed Friday, attorneys announced in an email Wednesday. 

"For those residents who filed a claim with the administrator seeking a lump-sum payment, the average per-household payment will be more than $8,000," according to the statement. 

Attorneys involved in the $143 million class action lawsuit previously asked for settlement payments to be fast tracked due the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down parts of the economy. 

The checks for lump sump payments are being mailed six weeks earlier than expected, according to the statement. 

“Getting this first round of checks out now rather than at the end of June will give a desperately needed lifeline to thousands of families during the COVID-19 shutdown,” according to the email. 

“The gas explosions crushed the local economy in Merrimack Valley, and these payments are a critical part of making the community whole again.”

A follow-up lump sum payment will go out in June for those who filed a claim but have not yet provided proof they lived in Lawrence, Andover or North Andover in September 2018.

Checks for itemized personal and business claimants will go out in September, as those claims take much longer to review, according to the email. 

The is developing story. A full report will appear in online and print editions of The Eagle-Tribune. 

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill. 

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